What is Postpartum Depression?

July 9, 2022

what is postpartum depression?

encouring and supporting mothers

by Jamal Ross

Generally speaking, having a baby is a joyful event, but some women may experience sadness or depression after the delivery of a child. When the symptoms of depression are persistent, this is call post-partum depression. The word post means “after” and partum is defined as “childbirth.” Therefore, post-partum depression refers to feeling of depression after childbirth.  About 10-16% of women in the United States have symptoms of depression following the birth of a child. (1) Whereas the postpartum blues is mild, self-limited and does not require treatment, postpartum depression is more impactful. In fact, the symptoms of postpartum depression can mirror major depressive disorder. If the postpartum blues worsens, lasts for more than 2 weeks or a new mother expressed a desire not to live, this is serious. In this cause, a new mother should be evaluated for postpartum depression.  (2) Let’s find out more about the symptoms of postpartum depression and how to treat this condition.

As mentioned, postpartum depression can appear similar to major depressive disorder. Symptoms of postpartum depression include, a depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, lack of sleep, decreased or increased eating patterns and excessive weight loss or gain. In severe cases, a mother may feel as though she does not want to live. (3) If you or someone you love feels way, speak with your doctor a soon as possible. You may require counseling and/ or medications to help treat this condition. Above all, pray, remind yourself of the heart of God and immediately reject any feelings of self-harm. It is important to realize such thoughts are not from God.  We know that God wants us filled joy and a hopeful expectancy for the great things to come.

When we look at the treatment for postpartum depression, women with mild, or moderate, symptoms should seek counseling. This is especially important for mothers who are breast feeding and do not want to exposure their infant to antidepressant medications. When symptoms are severe and impact daily function, medication may be needed. Though discussed later, postpartum depression is treated with medications called SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as paroxetine or venlafaxine. Serotonin is a hormone that is thought to regulate mood. Low levels of serotonin are thought to be responsible for the symptoms of depression. SSRIs help increase the natural levels on serotonin in the body. About 10% of this medication is passed into breast milk, but is generally considered safe when symptoms are severe. (4) Therefore, if you are considering stating a medication for postpartum depression, speak with you doctor.

 Having a child changes a parent’s life. With this comes a change in emotions. While it is important to be aware of depressive feeling following the birth of a child, it is more important to realize your life is filled with great promise. Similar to postpartum blues, mild or moderate postpartum depression can be treated with counseling. Severe cases of postpartum depression may require medications. Mothers and family members should be aware of worsening depressive symptoms. There is no shame in seeking the care of a medical professional while leaning into the word of God. Remember, “There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18) Jesus deeply loves you. He has more for you than you could ever imagine. Your life will be filled with joy. You are an amazing mother and capable of caring for your child despite any perceived or realized challenge. God has blessed and equipped you to be a mother. I am both proud and excited about the beauty in the future of the child you will raise.

1. Gaillard A, Le Strat Y, Mandelbrot L, Keïta H, Dubertret C. Predictors of postpartum depression: prospective study of 264 women followed during pregnancy and postpartum. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Feb 28;215(2):341-6.
2. Viguera A. Postpartum Blues. In: UpToDate, Solomon D. (Eds), UpToDate, Waltham, MA (Assessed July 6, 2022)
3. Viguera A. Postpartum unipolar major depression: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis. In: UpToDate, Solomon D. (Eds), UpToDate, Waltham, MA (Assessed July 6, 2022)
4. Viguera A. Mild to moderate postpartum unipolar depression: Treatment. In: UpToDate, Solomon D. (Eds), UpToDate, Waltham, MA (Assessed July 7, 2022)

Jamal Ross

Dr. Jamal Ross is an internist and pediatrician who possesses a passion for prayer and preventative medicine. He has worked in the fields of primary care and hospital medicine.

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