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Let's Talk Life - Post-natal depression

Published:Saturday | December 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Yvonnie Bailey- Davidson, Contributor

Dear Counsellor,

I have a young baby and got depressed when she was born. Is it possible for me to get depressed with another pregnancy?

- Joy

Dear Joy,

The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect - depression. Many new moms experience the baby blues after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly.

But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as post-partum depression. Post-partum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. It is possible to get depressed with another pregnancy. If you have post-partum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and enjoy your baby.

Some of the symptoms of baby blues include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration and trouble sleeping. If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. You should see your doctor if the symptoms are getting worse, making it hard for you to care for your baby, making it hard to complete everyday tasks or include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

Post-partum depression has the following symptoms: loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, loss of interest in sex, lack of joy in life, severe moods, and feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family and friends or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

The risk increases if you have a history of depression, either during pregnancy or at other times or if you had post-partum depression after a previous pregnancy. The risk increases if you've experienced stressful events during the last year, such as pregnancy complications, illness or job loss or if you're having problems in your relationship with your spouse. Also important is having a weak support system, having financial problems or if the pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted.

Left untreated, post-partum depression can interfere with mother- child bonding and cause family problems. Children of mothers who have untreated post-partum depression are more likely to have behavioural problems, such as sleeping and eating difficulties, temper tantrums and hyperactivity. Delays in language development are common as well.

Make healthy lifestyle choices

Baby blues usually fade on their own within a few days to one to two weeks. Get as much rest as you can. Accept help from family and friends. Connect with other new moms. Avoid alcohol, which can make mood swings worse. Make healthy lifestyle choices like physical activity, such as a walk with your baby and eating healthy foods. Set realistic expectations. Don't pressure yourself to do everything. Scale back your expectations for the perfect household. Do what you can and leave the rest. Ask for help when you need it.

Make time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house and visit a friend or run an errand. Schedule some time alone with your partner. Respond positively when faced with negative situations. Avoid isolation. Talk with your partner, family and friends about how you're feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences.

Post-partum depression is treated with counselling and medication. Remember, the best way to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself.

Email questions and feedback for Dr Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson to yvonniebd@hotmail.com or call 978-8602.