ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The birth of a baby can trigger joy and excitement, but it can also result in depression. The jumble of emotions some women feel a few days to a couple weeks after giving birth is known as “baby blues,” but some new moms face a more long-lasting, severe disorder—postpartum depression.
OB/GYN Dr. Cassandra Denefrio, Assistant Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Albany Medical Center says postpartum depression is very common. About 10% of women experience it at some point in the postpartum period, which can actually be up to 12 months after delivery. “It actually continues quite some time, probably longer than some people think,” said Dr. Denefrio.
The symptoms are the same as depression outside of pregnancy—a depressed mood, feelings of shame and guilt, anxiety and panic attacks, weight loss or weight gain, and sleeping too much or too little. Your OB/GYN should give you this one page questionnaire after you give birth to help determine your risk.
“Everyone should be receiving this. We basically score it and if you’re above a certain score, then that gives us a little bit higher concern. That tips me off to talk about some other things and offer resources,” she said. The reason behind postpartum depression is complex. There may be a genetic component and hormonal changes can contribute. “There’s a big decrease in estrogen and progesterone. There are also changes in cortisol, melatonin, oxytocin, and even thyroid hormones,” she said.
Risk factors include a history of depression or bi-polar disorder, having twins or other multiples, difficulty breastfeeding, and a weak support system. Left untreated, it can interfere with your baby’s health by disrupting breastfeeding and mother/infant bonding. Ask your doctor about treatment. It usually involves a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants.
Dr. Denefrio says women should not be ashamed to ask for help as they work to overcome obstacles while also sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. “From breastfeeding to managing how your other children are reacting to the new baby, managing the new relationship with your partner. So it’s always OK to ask for help because this is really difficult and sometimes it takes a village,” she said.