The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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* You generally feel stressed and anxious Do you worry more than most people? Are you stressed by situations that don’t ruffle your friends? Have your anxiety levels been increasing during pregnancy? Your tendency to fret may mean that postpartum stresses and anxieties will affect you more deeply than other new mothers, according to Zittel.
Prepare yourself: Acknowledge your tensions, discuss them with your partner and recognize that you’ll need an extra dose of support after your baby is born. Make plans now for lots of assistance from your partner, friends, family or hired help during the first weeks postpartum to allow you to rest and recharge your emotional batteries. If anxiety worsens, talk with your doctor, Zittel advises—some antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications are safe during pregnancy and can prevent things from getting worse.
When dads get down A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 10.4 percent of new fathers develop “paternal depression” sometime during their partners’ pregnancies or their babies’ first year of life. That’s about twice the rate of depression among men in the general population. The study also found that new fathers are more likely to be depressed if their partners have PPD. Symptoms are similar to those women experience—feelings of sadness, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, irritability, anger, changes in weight or eating patterns and sleep problems.
Facts about PPD
■ Seventy percent to 80 percent of women feel somewhat sad, afraid or anxious starting about two or three days after giving birth. But these feelings usually go away in a few days. If the “baby blues” become intense or don’t go away within a week, it may be postpartum depression.
■ PPD can occur at any time but most commonly begins one to three weeks after delivery.
■ Symptoms of PPD include anger, irritability, crying for no reason, appetite changes, anxiety attacks, sleep problems, trouble bonding with your baby, questioning your ability to be a mother, upsetting thoughts and fear that you may hurt yourself or your baby.
■ Doctors treat PPD with talk therapy and/or antidepressant medications that are safe for nursing mothers.
■ In rare cases, PPD develops into a much more dangerous condition known as postpartum psychosis.
Catch it early If you suspect you may have PPD, contact your doctor or midwife right away. Early treatment can prevent it from getting worse or from lasting a long time. If untreated, PPD can continue for months or years. Postpartum Support International provides more information about recognizing PPD, along with contact information for local support groups and other resources. Visit its website, postpartum.net, or call 800-944-4773.