Talk About Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy and having a baby may be the happiest times in a woman’s life. Celebrations, doting friends and family and the excitement of adding a sweet, cuddly tiny human to your household can launch you into a level of delight unmatched by anything else.

But what happens when you suddenly don’t feel so joyful? And loneliness, uncertainty and anxiety creep into your well-being? What is wrong with you? Why do you feel exhausted, helpless, guilty or just not yourself?

As part of its focus on Mental Health Awareness Month, Baptist Health South Florida hosted a Facebook Live discussion to talk about postpartum depression.

Prevalence of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression affects one in seven women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Alejandra Salazar, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Baptist Health Medical Group, says that while 14 percent of women experience varying levels of postpartum depression, only 10 percent report it to their doctor.

Dr. Salazar urges her patients and other women to speak up about their bothersome mental feelings, even if the baby hasn’t yet been born. Peripartum depression is less known about but almost always continues through the postpartum phase. If dealt with early, she says, postpartum depression can be managed, if not avoided altogether.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued itsguidance on screeningfor postpartum depression in October 2018, recommending that allobstetric-care providers complete an assessment of mood and emotionalwell-being during the comprehensive postpartum visit for each patient, even ifa patient has been screened for depression and anxiety during pregnancy.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Those screenings will likely uncover potential problems and risks, but Grace Jimenez, a Behavioral Health manager at Baptist Health, says it can be up to the woman or her loved ones to alert her doctor to red flags. Some symptoms of peripartum and postpartum depression include:

  • Physical fatigue or exhaustion
  • Not wanting to do anything
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Sad thoughts
  • A sense of not connecting with the baby
  • Just not feeling right
Seek Help for PostpartumDepression Symptoms

While many of these symptoms mirror the normal stress signalsassociated with pregnancy and having a new baby, Ms. Jimenez says that whenthey become too much to handle, it’s important to talk with your doctor or seekthe help of a therapist or behavioral health specialist.

Dr. Salazar adds that there are physiological reasons for experiencingsome of the above signs. Progesterone and estrogen levels plummet in a shorttime following the birth of the baby to their pre-pregnancy levels, she says.But if these feelings last beyond the first two weeks after delivery, whenhormones level off, she recommends speaking to your doctor.

If after two weeks, you can’t sleep, you’re eating too much or too little, experience anxiety that doesn’t go away or increases, or you consider harming yourself or your baby, Dr. Salazar urges you to seek professional help immediately. That help can come from your OB/GYN, a family doctor, or a mental health professional.

Ms. Jimenez says an online appointment with a behavioral healthspecialist through Baptist Health’s Careon Demand for Behavioral Health is also an option.

History of Mental Health Issues andPostpartum Depression

She says that for women who have a history of mental illness, anxietyor depression, discussing this history with your doctor at your first prenatalvisit will help determine whether antidepressants or other medications shouldbe changed, as it’s not always necessary to discontinue their use. 

Help for Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can be treated. Both Dr. Salazar and Ms. Jimenezsay therapy is key, while medications can offer additional relief. Ms. Jimenezrecommends involving the family in therapy as well, so they can learn how tosupport the person with postpartum depression.

Community Resources and SupportGroups

Once the underlying depression is uncovered and managedthrough therapy or medication, or if you feel you need additional support tohelp you adjust to your role as a new parent – even if you have other children– community resources are available. Baptist Health offers newparent support groups and other groups, such as Postpartum Support International, exist.

Ms. Jimenez offers these words of advice to anyone hesitantto speak to someone about their postpartum depression: “Take care of yourself,so you can take care of your baby.”

Dr. Salazar echoes that sentiment and adds that you can give yourself permission to feel what you feel. “Don’t compare yourself to anyone else,” she said. “This is your journey.”

Watch our Facebook Live session on postpartum depression. 

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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