Postpartum Depression

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

The holidays will soon be upon us which can be a fun and exciting time of year but can also add even more stress to moms with a new baby, especially if she has other children. Having a baby is a very emotional time in a woman’s life and she may feel like she is going through a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Baby Blues vs Depression

Most new moms will experience some postpartum baby blues after childbirth, including mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically start a few days after delivery and resolve in a couple of weeks.

However, up to 20% of moms will experience postpartum depression which is much more severe and lasts much longer. These symptoms can include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Excessive crying
  • Severe anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Feelings of failure as a mother
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Lack of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Poor concentration and decision making
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame or guilt
  • Unusual worry over infant’s health
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Suicidal thoughts

If a mom has a history of a previous mood disorder or had postpartum depression with a previous child, she is more at risk. Stressful events which can increase the risk include pregnancy complications, a baby with health issues, multiple births, poor support system, financial problems, and difficulty breastfeeding.

Sometimes, the mother experiencing postpartum depression does not recognize or acknowledge that she is depressed. It can be her partner or family member that realizes there is a problem. It is imperative that a mom sees her doctor as soon as possible to get help. If they decide to put her on antidepressants, it can take about two weeks for them to start helping so the sooner she gets in for an appointment, the better.

Medical Treatments

There are many safe antidepressants to take while breastfeeding that have been used by many mothers in the past several years. It is not necessary to wean a baby if a mom is given an appropriate antidepressant. The most commonly given and safest medications include Zoloft (Sertraline) and Paxil (Paroxetine). If one of these does not work for a mom, she can discuss other options with her provider. Prozac and Effexor have a high dose that is transferred to breastmilk and therefore would not be ideal options for a breastfeeding mother.

Nonmedical Treatments

Nonmedicinal treatment options for postpartum depression are also available. Mom may benefit from seeing a mental health therapist or counselor. Breastfeeding support groups or La Leche League meetings are excellent options and most hospitals offer breastfeeding support groups. Likely, other moms in the group have experienced some postpartum blues or perhaps postpartum depression and will be able to provide good empathetic support. They can give suggestions on what was helpful to them. Often, new moms feel very alone and isolated. Going to a support group helps her realize she is not the only new mom going through these issues and enables her to cope better.  

Ways to help

Fathers can play an important role. Doing small things like burping and changing diapers, especially for night feedings, is very helpful. If a mom is doing a lot of pumping, such as when her baby is in the NICU, washing pump parts can also be a huge help. Giving mom a backrub while nursing and just telling her she is doing a good job can boost mom’s self-esteem.

Remind mom to sleep when the baby sleeps and taking her afternoon naps are crucial. Going outside, especially on a sunny day, and taking a walk can help refresh mom. If it is winter, she can go to the mall and take a walk.

Good nutrition is also important for mom to recover from her delivery and give her body the nutrients it needs to function better. Getting protein with meals and not just snacking on junk food is imperative along with drinking plenty of water.

If the baby has other siblings, having them continue to go to daycare is helpful not just for mom but for maintaining a toddler’s routine. If grandparents are available, they can be a huge help in taking care of the other children while mom rests or takes care of the baby. Having family members take over household duties, including laundry, cooking and dishes are also helpful.

When moms are having difficulty with breastfeeding, it can be very discouraging and stressful. Getting help from an experienced Lactation Consultant is extremely helpful and can give mom’s morale a huge boost and decrease her feelings of depression and anxiety.

We are here for you

Diane Erdmann RN IBCLC has been working with breastfeeding families for over 40 years and promises each mom she will have lots of suggestions to help her overcome any breastfeeding issues she may be dealing with. Diane is able to bill most insurances for lactation consultations so moms rarely pay out of pocket for them. Call today for an appointment at 402-707-1696. If Diane is not able to see you the day you call, she will likely be available the next day.