Depression is a problem that can occur at any time in a person's life. However, women are more prone to it than men, particulary after childbirth. I'd like to first say, that if you have depression or have had depression in the past, you are not alone! This is a topic that many women don't talk about or neglect to tell their phyician or midwife about it out of fear or belief there is nothing they can do about it. Women build up excitement and anticipation for the birth of the their baby for nine months, sometimes to feel let down and depressed after the experience when they wish they felt joy and elation.
During pregnancy, female hormones estrogen and progesterone are high. They help maintain the pregnancy and prepare the body for childbirth. After delivery, there is a rapid decline in hormones to allow the body to produce prolactin for breast feeding and to go back to "normal." Unfortunately, the mixture of drop in hormones, plus lack of sleep from a newborn, frustrations with a fussy baby or breast feeding difficulties, and pain from delivery can all attribute to depressed mother. It is important to note that these feelings are valid and not abnormal. Newborns are time consuming and difficult no matter how much you love them and how great of a mother you are.
Recovering from depression may take time and some different approaches. I like to tell my patients first off to take care of themselves! You cannot take care of someone else unless your own needs are met. Take time each day to shower, get dressed, do your hair or make up if desired. I also recommend light exercise or more moderate to intense exercise if you are past 6 weeks and your doctor has cleared you to do so. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel good naturally. It also helps with post partum weight loss that boosts most womens' mood. Communication with your partner, friends, and family is also beneficial. They often do not understand if you don't tell them that you need help. Most would be happy to watch the baby for an hour or so so you can take time for you! Let people help you! Let your partner know how you feel and what he or she can do to alleviate your stress or anxiety.
Lastly, there are medications to take to help the depression if you are still not feeling any better. Most medications are safe to take with breast feeding and may help you feel more rational, less anxious, and better rested. There are medications such as Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Wellbutrin that have been around a long time and are well studied and tolerated and can provide some much needed relief for some people.
There are also counselors who are available to talk with you and help you work through your own individual situation, as everyone has different stressors and problems that may worsen their depression.
It is important to remember that a depressed mother may have difficulty bonding with her newborn. It is so important in the beginning for mom and baby to have a special bond, and for the baby to feel love and trust from his or her mother. These beginning relationships are the foundation for your baby's life long relationships with people and the outside world. Make them worthwhile and meaningful for both of you!!
So don't be ashamed if you are depressed. Feel free to call and speak with your provider and get help. Good Luck!!