Dr. Carolyn Chambers Clark, Award-Winning Author and Wellness Nurse Practitioner

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Post Partum Depression

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Do you think you or someone you know might have postpartum depression?
It's pretty common and that's why I wrote this article...to help you learn more about the condition.

What is postpartum depression?


Because childbirth is a major change, it's natural to have some negative feelings about it. The range of feelings different women may go through includes a range from "the blues," which is the most common and least disabling, to postpartum psychosis, which affects only 2 out of every l,000 mothers.


What are some postpartum reactions?


*The Blues is the term used to describe the common tearfulness, fatigue, insomnia, exhaustion and irritability of the first two to three days after the birth of a baby. Fifty to 80 percent of all new mothers go through this and the symptoms usually go away on their own within a week or two.


*Normal Adjustment or "normal crazy" is the next level of disruption. It includes the blues plus anxiety, mood swings and anger. These are normal feelings, but women going through them feel crazy because everyone, including the new mother expects the birth of a child to be a wonderful time. But it's not always so wonderful. New mothers are sleep-deprived, exhausted, and overwhelmed with the task before them. They're thrown in a twenty-four hour a day job for which there's no adequate training available and given the responsibility for a completely vulnerable and complex human being who arrives without an instruction manual. This reaction may continue for up to two months and can be on again off again with many good days mixed in.


*Postpartum Mood Reaction. This is the next level of reaction and includes feeling depressed, crying, sleep problems and self-doubt. A manic state, during which the mother has excessive energy, little need for sleep and hyper-irritability can also reign. Mothers who can't get daily tasks done and have many symptoms and a baby more than six weeks old may fit in this category.


*Postpartum Anxiety Reactions. Like mood reactions, anxiety reactions are an exaggeration of the negative feelings women have after giving birth, but anxiety, worry and panic are prominent. They may have scary thoughts and panic attacks (buzzing in the ears, tingling in the hands and limbs, shortness of breath, dizziness, or flushed skin) that interfere with getting any daily tasks done.


*Postpartum Thought Reactions. This is the rarest and most extreme form of postpartum emotional reaction. It is a psychosis that occurs only once or twice in every l,000 new mothers. Women suffering from this disorder have life-threatening confusion, hallucinations and delusions that severely impede her daily functioning. These women may see or hear things that aren't there and as a result, they can pose a great danger to themselves and their baby. Women with these symptoms need immediate attention from a trained mental health professional.


How to survive the postpartum period


*Get enough rest, eat right, and exercise


*Ask for help from your partner, family and friends when you're feeling overwhelmed. It's okay to need help and ask for it.


*If necessary, hire someone to help you after the baby is born.


*If you're expecting, both you and partner should consider taking classes on child care prior to delivery. That will give you a sense of empowerment and self-confidence once the baby is born.


*Let your friends and family know your feelings and that it's normal to feel bad sometimes, that you're still an okay person even if you don't feel just wonderful about this new addition to your life at every moment. You have a right to express your feelings! Just do it in a respectful way.


*Make sure you have other new parents to talk to and see them at least once a week. Join a support group, or invite new parents to your home to chat.


*Attend to the good feelings you do have and allow yourself to feel good about them. Use positive self-talk: "I can do this." "I can handle this." "I'm already doing this." "I'm a great Mom." "I love my baby and want to protect it."


*Don't chastise yourself for your angry, depressed, and negative feelings. You have a right to have them and you can learn to manage them. Use positive self talk: "It's okay to feel angry (depressed, irritable) sometimes." "I can manage my feelings and feel good about myself and my baby."


*Take breaks, by yourself and with your partner or another adult. You can't be expected to do any job nonstop without some time off every day.


*Keep your expectations of yourself positive. Have short-term, achievable goals. Work toward reasonable goals, allowing for disruption in your schedules, activities, the cleanliness of your home, etc. Everything always takes longer than you think it will, so expect that.


*Nurture your sense of humor. Try to laugh daily. Rent comedies and enjoy them.


*Structure your day, but only have a loose plan for how you will spend your time. Write down in your appointment book when you will exercise, when you will talk with other new parents, when you will rest and take breaks. Remember your schedule may have to be adapted to the needs of your baby and you and that's okay.


*Postpone major life changes. You have enough on your plate right now. Avoid moving, changing jobs, or partners.


Beyond Self-Care


If these self-care actions aren't enough, if you can't complete activities of daily life, if your symptoms aren't getting any better, and especially if you're hearing voices or starting to have hateful feelings toward your baby, get some help right away from a mental health specialist,  preferably a women who has children and can understand what you're going through. It's okay to get help, in fact it's the wise thing to do if you're feeling overwhelmed.  Give yourself permission to take care of yourself so you can care for your baby. You and your baby deserve it!


Copyright 2006 Carolyn Chambers Clark



Think positive and you'll be positive!

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