Postpartum depression can be debilitating for new moms

Q: I hope one day you will write about postpartum depression.

Our grandniece struggled with it for a while, just after the birth of their third child and it seemed to me that she struggled so unnecessarily because she did not open up honestly with her doctor.

By trying to bury her struggle deep within herself she had a more difficult time than she needed to have.

She later told me that when she was struggling with postpartum depression, she felt more ashamed of herself than she ever had at any other time in her life.

In the middle of the depression, she was almost totally emotionally alienated from her children and that somehow meant to her that she was not a good mother. It was even worse for her when other people, including my husband and me, would stop around and tell her what beautiful children she had and how she must simply love to pieces her adorable new baby.

She did not feel that way. She just wanted to get out of there, to get away from all three kids and especially to run away from her new baby.

As luck would have it, her husband finally convinced her to go to her family doctor and with some proper medication and two or three counselling sessions with a mental health therapist, she got over that hump and is today the loving and caring mother for all three children that we knew her to be.

I don’t know what would have happened without the doctor and the counsellor. They were great. But what disturbed me was that it took a few weeks of pain and unnecessary misery before our grandniece got the help she needed. She should have gone for it earlier but she was so ashamed of her feelings that she didn’t go. It seems to me that if people understand that postpartum depression is just one of those things, one of the possible normal hazards of childbirth, they might admit to having it sooner and a lot of unnecessary suffering for both mothers and children could be eliminated.

Thank you, Mr. Andrews. I know that you will pick this up and help all of us support all of our new moms.

A: Thank you for your letter. You pretty much said it all. For readers who do not know, postpartum depression is a potential normal reaction that some new moms go through after the birth of a new child. It is a lot like “baby blues”. In fact, it is baby blues, to some extent, but it lasts longer and can be much more devastating to Mom’s well-being.

A great many women struggle with baby blues a couple of days after their babies are born. They get sad, irritable, caught up in mood swings, sometimes they cry a lot and of course they are buried by nights of insomnia. Baby blues generally last just a couple of weeks before they are dissipated by that maternal drive to love and protect the brood.

When the baby blues do not go away, it is likely postpartum depression. Somewhere between 17 and 25 percent of new moms will get depressed.

New moms with postpartum depression should talk to their family doctors and agree to a couple of sessions with a mental health counsellor.

We cannot say what really causes baby blues, and later postpartum depression. Each mom who goes through it is different. For some it is related to poor general health, questionable nutrition and lifestyles that are not as healthy as they could be. Others appear to be reacting to complications at birth. Some moms struggle when their babies are born before term. Others react to babies that are underweight or struggling a bit with their own brand new bodies.

The list for what causes postpartum depression can get to be lengthy. This much we know for certain. When a woman is pregnant her body is going through a series of challenging and sometimes difficult adjustments to the baby. Then when the baby is born she has to reconfigure the whole thing and let her body recover from nine months of disruption.

It only makes sense that sometimes the recovery a woman’s body makes after the birth of the child might be difficult. It only makes sense that many women go through the baby blues. It only makes sense that some of them carry on and struggle with postpartum depression. And it only makes sense that all of us would support women whose post-natal life is a struggle and encourage them to openly talk to their family doctors, while agreeing to a session or two with their mental health counsellors.

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