By Riva Preil
The first two weeks post child birth can be like a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Feelings during this time period span the entire spectrum ranging from joy and elation to sadness and feelings of inadequacy regarding caring for the newborn. THIS IS VERY COMMON, and the negative emotions experienced at this time colloquially referred to as the “baby blues” are not cause for alarm. However, if these feelings develop or extend beyond the initial two weeks, there may be concern of Post-Partum Depression (PPD). PPD is moderate to severe depression that is associated with increased irritability, difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, decreased pleasure with previously enjoyable activities, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and/or feelings of guilt. What causes PPD? Research has yet to identify a direct causative factor, however some hypothesize that pregnancy related hormone changes may play a role in the development of PPD. Furthermore, non-hormonal factors may contribute to PPD including lack of sleep, pregnancy related body changes, decreased personal time, and anxiety about being a good mother. There is little research to support the theory that there is a genetic component to PPD (refer to article The Heritability of Postpartum Depression for details here).
PPD untreated may persist for months (or even years!), therefore early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. The two main components of a treatment program are talk therapy (especially cognitive behavioral therapy/CBT) and medication. In addition, having a support system is imperative- accept assistance when offered, it is not a sign of weakness! Also, don’t be afraid to talk about your emotions with an appropriate supportive family member, friend, or professional. Be sure to schedule personal “you” time- many women focus so much on the needs of their infant that they neglect their own needs. Try to be self aware, recognize your limitations, and don’t be too hard on yourself- almost perfect is almost always adequate. Finally, many women experience postpartum pain and/or body changes (ex. pelvic floor muscle weakness, incontinence, scar related adhesions if caesarian section delivery). Physical therapy can help alleviate the musculoskeletal related issues which will improve mom’s overall mood, health, and well-being. If you or someone you know may benefit from medication and/or physical therapy, please speak with your health care provider.