It’s an almost inconceivable thought: being so depressed that you have no interest in, or are incapable of, caring for your baby. Yet it happens: Between 800,000 and 1 million women are diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD) every year in the U.S.
Here’s what you need to know about this common, yet entirely treatable, condition.
1. When does it occur?
Symptoms usually begin within three months of delivery, though anytime within the first year is possible, says Diana Lynn Barnes, Psy.D., L.M.F.T., founder of the Center for Postpartum Health in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
2. What does it feel like?
While symptoms can vary, one common characteristic is feeling disconnected from your baby. “Women also may suffer from mental fogginess, disorientation and confusion,” Barnes adds. Other symptoms include a change in sleeping and eating patterns.
3. Who’s at risk?
Women with a personal or family history of depression or mood or anxiety disorders are more likely to develop PPD, as are those who experience significant mood-related changes related to their menstrual cycles. But perhaps the biggest risk factor is having had PPD with a previous pregnancy—especially if it was untreated. “In this case, a woman’s risk of developing PPD is upward of 75 percent, and the PPD is more severe,” Barnes explains.
4. How is it treated?
A combination of antidepressants and psycho-therapy is the norm. “It’s a gradual process, but within three to four months, most women are feeling much better,” she says.
5. How do you get help?
If you think you have PPD, it’s important to find someone with expertise in treating the condition. Contact Postpartum Support International (postpartum.net or 800-944-4773) for support or a referral.
And remember: You will get better. Says Barnes, “This is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, and one of the easiest to treat.”