Sunday, May 19, 2013

Baby Blues

Most of us are familiar with the idea that having a baby can cause mood changes in women, and in fact 80% of women experience some level of the "baby blues" in the first 6--8 weeks after giving birth.  Certain scenarios are riskier for the development of postpartum depression, including lack of a support system, financial stress, pre-existing mental health issues, twins/multiples, prematurity or other illness of the baby, and a prior history of postpartum depression.  The symptoms of depression include frequent crying/sadness, inability to enjoy things that one would normally have done, early morning awakening (other than for a crying baby) and other sleep disturbances, weight loss/lack of appetite, feelings of being overwhelmed or guilty about one's parenting skills, extreme irritability with loved ones, exhaustion, panic attacks, etc.

Fathers can sometimes experience some of these symptoms too.   We often will hear from fathers before the patients are willing to admit there might be a problem.  Obviously, if there are any thoughts about hurting oneself or the baby, that constitutes an emergency situation which we will help you get addressed right away by a mental health professional.  However, even when symptoms don't rise to that level, we have tools to help you cope with these difficulties including both counseling and medications.

Sometimes all a mom needs is some help with the baby so she can get some quality rest so that she can come back to her new responsibilities stronger and more refreshed.  Pediatricians can also be very helpful dealing with "colicky" babies or babies that have medical issues that need to be resolved.  Family support can be a big help, but occasionally can be part of the problem if it is overly intrusive into the new family unit.  Mom and Dad coming together as a team and communicating the need for boundaries is very important for some families in the early days.

We routinely have our patients fill out a screening to find out if they are at an increased risk for postpartum depression:

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