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Postpartum Depression

The birth of a child is often portrayed as a time of immense joy and fulfillment. However, for some new mothers, this period can be clouded by the overwhelming darkness of postpartum depression (PPD). Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects many women after childbirth, and it is crucial to shed light on this topic to support those who may be silently suffering.

Postpartum depression is more than just the “baby blues.” It is a complex and challenging condition that can manifest within weeks or months after giving birth. The symptoms of PPD can vary in intensity and duration, impacting a mother’s emotional well-being and ability to bond with her newborn. Feelings of sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness may persist, accompanied by anxiety, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.

Several factors contribute to postpartum depression, including hormonal changes, a personal or family history of depression or anxiety, a lack of social support, and the stress and exhaustion that often accompany caring for a newborn. It is essential to understand that postpartum depression does not reflect a mother’s capabilities or love for her child. It is a medical condition that requires compassion, understanding, and professional intervention.

Recognizing the signs and seeking help is crucial for women experiencing postpartum depression. It takes strength to admit that something isn’t right and to reach out for support. Seeking help from healthcare professionals, such as therapists or counselors specializing in postpartum mental health, can provide a safe space for mothers to express their feelings, learn coping strategies, and receive the appropriate treatment.

Treatment options for postpartum depression may include therapy, medication, lifestyle adjustments, and social support. Therapy sessions can help women navigate the emotional challenges of PPD, develop coping mechanisms, and build a strong support network. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage the symptoms of depression. Lifestyle adjustments such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and prioritizing sleep can also contribute to overall well-being. Establishing a strong support system, including partners, family members, and friends, can provide much-needed emotional support and practical assistance during this challenging time.

Partners and loved ones play a crucial role in supporting women with postpartum depression. By offering understanding, empathy, and practical help, they can make a significant difference in a mother’s recovery. Encouraging self-care and taking on household tasks or childcare responsibilities can alleviate some of a mother’s burdens.

It’s essential to emphasize that seeking help and prioritizing self-care are not signs of weakness but rather acts of strength. Recovery from postpartum depression takes time, and each individual’s journey is unique. It is essential for women to practice self-compassion, be patient with themselves, and celebrate every small victory along the way.

Postpartum depression is a real and challenging condition that affects countless women. By increasing awareness, providing support, and ensuring access to appropriate resources, we can help mothers navigate the shadows of postpartum depression and find their way back to the joy and fulfillment of motherhood. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of failure but a courageous step toward reclaiming your well-being and embracing the beautiful journey of motherhood.

My unusual combination of training and clinical roles in the fields of reproductive health, pediatrics, and adolescent medicine has provided me with years of experience and expertise in the care of mothers and their children. During my eight year tenure as the Medical Director of the Young Mother’s Clinic at The Children’s Hospital Colorado, my research focused on improving screening for postpartum depression.

In 2008, as a conference presenter at the “North American Society for Pediatric & Adolescent Gynecology” (NASPAG) annual meeting, I received the “Evelyn G. Laufer Award for Best Oral Presentation” following the presentation of our team’s research results on screening for postpartum depression at well-child visits. In 2011, invited to participate on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Task Force on perinatal depression where state-wide guidance on perinatal depression screening was developed and later published, the task force chose to recommend the use of a brief 3-question screening tool that had been validated by one of our research studies. Additionally, this task force recommended the use of telemedicine visits to improve patient access to mental health treatment, far in advance of its more recognized use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below, are links to my team’s research articles published in prominent medical journals. Also included is the most current rendition of the CDPHE guideline on perinatal depression.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out should you be experiencing perinatal mood symptoms or have concerns about a family member who may be experiencing these symptoms. I would be honored to help!

Identifying postpartum depression: are three questions as good as 10?

Depression, weight gain, and low birth weight adolescent delivery: do somatic symptoms strengthen or weaken the relationship?

Screening for postpartum depression at well-child visits: is once enough during the first six months of life? (Presented at NASPAG 2008 and awarded Best Oral Research Presentation)

A review of prenatal group care literature: the need for a structured theoretical framework and systematic evaluation.

CDPHE Guideline: