Postpartum Depression

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For most women, welcoming a baby into the world is a time of great excitement and new beginnings. But for some, the major life changes associated with having a new baby can cause a variety of postpartum disorders, including depression or anxiety, obsessive compulsive, panic, or posttraumatic stress disorders.

Click here to view Postpartum segment on WQED “Beyond Baby Blues”
If you feel that you are in danger of harming yourself or others, you need to seek immediate attention from a mental health professional. Please go to the closest Emergency Room or call one of the numbers below:
• St. Clair Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Mental Health: 412.942.4800
• RESOLVE Crisis Network 24-hour crisis hotline (Allegheny County): 888.796.8226
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK  (800.273.8255)

What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression and the anxiety disorders that can accompany it are illnesses that are caused by a woman’s changing hormone levels.  Twenty-four hours following the birth of a child, a woman’s progesterone and estrogen levels drop to a level lower than before conception.  This change, along with the complex changes a woman’s body undergoes following birth, can cause postpartum depression or other anxiety disorders.

Who can depression affect?
Perinatal mood disorders can affect women who:
• are pregnant
• have recently had a baby
• have ended a pregnancy or miscarried
• have stopped breastfeeding
• have experienced postpartum depression during a prior birth
• have few supportive family members or friends
• have been clinically diagnosed with depression not related to pregnancy
• have severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
• are in a difficult marriage or stressful relationship
• have experienced stressful life events during their pregnancy or following childbirth

Is it the “baby blues” or postpartum depression?
Approximately 80 percent of new mothers cry easily or feel especially stressed within the first two weeks following the births of their babies.  This condition is typically referred to as the “baby blues,” because the feelings come and go quickly.  However, some women experience a deep sadness that comes and goes or never disappears, while others experience feelings of sadness even months after childbirth.  This condition can be caused by postpartum depression or another anxiety disorder.

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
It is important for women and their families to recognize the warning signs of postpartum depression and to seek help immediately if they experience any of the following:
• feeling sad or down often
• difficulties falling or staying asleep – even when the baby is sleeping
• loss of or changes in appetite
• difficulties concentrating or focusing
• loss of interest or pleasure in life
• feeling irritable, exhausted, angry or nervous
• loss of interest in the new baby, friends or family members
• feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness or that you are a “bad” mother
• periods of crying for unknown reasons
• shakiness or nausea
• fear of losing control or “going crazy”
• thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Data from the National Institute of Health suggests that approximately 15 percent of women will experience some type of postpartum depression following the birth of a child.

What treatments are available?
Regardless of whether symptoms are mild or severe, mothers can recover from postpartum depression with proper treatment.  St. Clair Hospital’s Center for Women & Children and Psychiatry and Mental Health Services offer support to women suffering from postpartum depression via specialized team of psychiatrists, licensed counselors, and mental health and obstetric nurses.
Contact Information:
Baby Steps, St. Clair’s Postpartum Depression Support Group, click here or call our Center for Women & Children at 412.942.5877.