Dr. Creshelle Nash
While being pregnant can be a joyous time, it can also be a stressful experience. During pregnancy, expectant mothers experience significant hormonal, physical, and mental changes. And the birth of a baby can bring forth a lot of powerful emotions, ranging from happiness to fear. In some cases, mothers can experience intense feelings known as ‘postpartum depression.’ Unfortunately, recent research shows that about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
It’s important to remember that no one is to blame for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is not a weakness but simply a potential complication of giving birth, and there are ways to combat it.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Recognizing the symptoms can be difficult as there are many ways the condition can present itself. But if you experience several of the symptoms below for more than two weeks after giving birth, seek medical attention right away. Those symptoms can include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Loss of appetite or eating more than usual
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of energy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
All these symptoms are serious, but if you have suicidal thoughts, you should immediately seek help. Consider talking with your partner or a loved one, getting help from a healthcare provider, or contacting a suicide hotline. In Arkansas, you can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, use the Lifeline Chat, or contact AR ConnectNow. These services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are confidential.
Getting Help and Receiving Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Although sharing your struggles with others can be difficult, doing so is crucial for your and your baby’s well-being. Friends and relatives should keep in mind that those who are suffering from postpartum depression might not realize or want to admit that they are depressed. New parents may not be aware of the signs, or they may feel shame or embarrassment. They may think that only moms can experience these feelings, though new dads can be affected too. If you suspect that your loved one has postpartum depression, help them seek medical attention so they can begin treatment immediately.
Recovery looks different for everyone. This means certain treatments may not relieve your symptoms. If this is the case, it’s important to work with your care team to see which one is best for you and your family. The most common treatments include:
- During therapy, you talk to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to learn ways to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.
- There are many medicines for postpartum depression that can be prescribed by your doctor. The most common is antidepressants. Antidepressants can help relieve symptoms of depression, and some can be taken while you’re breastfeeding.
Like most forms of medical treatment, it can take several weeks to start working or for you to see results. Remember to be patient and to lean on your support systems during this time.
How We’re Supporting Maternal Health
At Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we want to help you take good care of yourself and your loved ones. That’s why we’ve been investing in the future of Arkansan families by taking care of mothers and their babies through our whole-person approach to healthcare.
Our approach aims to address all aspects of a person’s health. Since postpartum depression can affect mental and physical health, it’s important to make sure all your needs are met so you can be your healthiest self. We’re focused on developing programs that will make a difference for all Arkansans. Check out our care management and health education resources for more information on our maternal health initiatives and postpartum depression.