“Baby Blues” — or Postpartum Depression?


Postpartum Depression Video
Janelle: I didn’t know much about postpartum depression prior to giving birth; it just
wasn’t something that was discussed. I definitely didn’t want anyone to know,
and I don’t think I even talked to my family much about it. I think my mother only found out recently
that I had even gone through, you know, real postpartum. It was just not something we talked about. And even once I told my mom, she’s like
“you know I had something like that when I had you,” but I don’t remember. We’ve never talked about it before, until
recently. Narrator: Postpartum depression is a mood
disorder that can affect women shortly before or soon after childbirth. Any woman, regardless of her race, age, social,
economic, or educational background, can be impacted by this condition. Dr. Peter Schmidt: Women with postpartum depression
present with a persistent change in mood that not only is associated with some disturbance
in their life but also a persistent mood that will extend beyond 2 or 3 days and will go
beyond 2 weeks, but the range is between 7 and 14 percent of live births. So in this country, that works out to be approximately
half a million women per year that are at risk for developing postpartum depression. Karla Thompson: There’s an overwhelming
sense of anxiety as well as sadness, and there’s also the tendency to isolate. And the chance for suicide is much greater
in postpartum depression. Janelle: In the first 3 weeks or so, I started
noticing that I just felt just completely overwhelmed and stressed and, you know, it
definitely was not going according to plan. You know, I wasn’t sleeping—not that you
sleep that much when you have babies anyway—but I was a mess; I was crying you know, I was
just, I could not seem to shake that sort of overwhelming feeling that I had. I think I always worried about something happening
to my babies or me, you know. I think it was constantly in my head, then
like I couldn’t relax. I was just very wound up and, you know, constantly
checking on them. I was probably overdoing it in hindsight. Dr. Gioia Guerrieri: Eighty percent of women
experience the baby blues. Transient anxiety, worry about am I a good
enough mom, am I going to be able to do this, am I going to be able to resume my normal
activities; those symptoms go away within the first few weeks of delivering a baby. Postpartum depression may seem like it starts
out that way, but the ruminations, the obsessions, checking locks sometimes, going to the crib
and making sure the baby is safe all the time, not being able to sleep, feeling disconnected
from her baby or her husband or her family, becomes very problematic. She’s unable to function, and those symptoms
become daily and intrusive and are present within a month of delivering a baby. Narrator: In rare instances, a woman may develop
postpartum psychosis, a severe condition occurring in one in one thousand births. Women suffering from postpartum psychosis
require immediate treatment by a health care professional. Dr. Pedro Martinez: Postpartum psychosis is
very acute; it’s very dangerous, obviously, because a mother loses the ability to be rational
during that time. So in postpartum psychosis, you will get a
distortion of reality that is so severe that could actually impair your ability to tell
what’s real and what’s not. Postpartum depression you continue to have
a sense of reality, and you continue to realize what’s happening around you, but there is,
you know, you’re impaired because of the sadness, because of the anxiety, but not necessarily
by thoughts of psychosis and, you know, delusions and hallucinations that women with postpartum
psychosis will experience. Janelle: We had a home that had at that time
it had like a landing upstairs, and I was sitting there and I was in a recliner nursing
the babies one night; it must have been like midnight, 1 o’clock in the morning, and I
remember thinking, you know, if we just like all of us just fell over here right then,
like it was one of those things like, you know, but then I kept nursing and I just sort
of went on about my night or whatever. But I think that was one of those things I
was like, okay, I’m really sort of flipping out here. My husband and I definitely talked about sort
of it was time to do something to try to help me, and he was sort of like you know, go get
some drugs if you need it. You know, he was like whatever you need, you
know, get it or whatever and then heard about this program at NIH which appealed to me. I learned about the NIH Treatment Study via
the Internet research that we were doing. Dr. Martinez: Postpartum depression can be
treated by psychotherapy; it can be treated by medication. Individual therapy or group therapy can be
very helpful to a woman with postpartum depression. It’s important for women to seek out help
from a health care professional because that health care professional is usually aware
of other resources that they can use and that individual will be more prepared to either
intervene immediately with a medication or to recommend other approaches to treatment. Janelle: I would like other moms to know that
it’s okay, you know, its normal if you do have it; it’s treatable and that to be active
and to seek help and, you know, not just sort of sit back and think that you can heal yourself
over time and that sort of thing because I do feel like if I had not sought treatment,
it’s something that would of sort of festered over time and become more difficult to manage. If we talk about our experiences, if we’re
open about our experiences, then that sort of, you know, takes this mask off where other
women feel comfortable knowing that this is okay, other women have gone through this and
they’re okay on the other end; but we need to engage in that conversation and continue
that.

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