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‘Baby blues’

Health / Postpartum depression

Condition disrupts mother-child relationship

By Suzie Stier-Waletzki

lifestyle@postbulletin.com

For the majority of women, having a baby is a special, wonderful event. However, researchers believe that at least 10 percent of women suffer depression during or after pregnancy.

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"Postpartum depression, or the baby blues, is a serious health concern because it is linked to much personal suffering, family distress, and interferes with the mother–child relationship," says Kathy Dubbels, Olmsted County Public Health Nurse, RNC.

According to Dubbels, this condition is not uncommon and can happen during the first days after childbirth and subside in less than 2 weeks. It may also happen months after pregnancy or a pregnancy loss. Without treatment, Dubbels says, postpartum depression goes on for an average of 7 months, and can go on for over a year.

"More than half the women have temporary, mild symptoms of depression mixed with feelings of happiness after having a baby," Dubbels says. "It is often not recognized or treated because normal changes are similar to some symptoms such as tiredness, sleeping problems, body weight changes and stronger emotional reactions happening at the same time."

Dubbels says postpartum depression could interfere with the mother’s ability to parent; she may not be able to function well enough to take care of her baby and meet her child’s needs for affection and love.

"This can result in a mother feeling guilty and losing confidence, which can worsen depression," she says. "Babies of depressed mothers may have delays in language development, sleeping and eating difficulties, and behavioral and emotional problems. While the mother is depressed, it helps if the father or another caregiver provides additional assistance in meeting the needs of the baby and other children."

The causes of depression during or after pregnancy are not clear, but Dubbels says research suggests that hormone changes, on-going life stresses/pressures, or major life changes may make a woman more susceptible.

"Treatment may include counseling, or talk therapy to cope with thoughts and feelings," she says. "Antidepressant medicines can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Unproven therapies include the use of bright light and nutritional therapy, especially increasing omega-3 free fatty acids."

Dubbels stresses the importance of talking with a healthcare provider about feelings and symptoms.

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"Feeling tired and alone or upset after giving birth surprises some new mothers because these feelings don’t match the feelings they expected they would have," she says. "All mothers deserve the chance to enjoy their children and their life; and their children deserve a healthy mother-baby relationship."

Symptoms of depression. Any lasting longer than two weeks are signs of depression.

• Feelings of loss, hopelessness, loneliness

• Crying a lot

• Sleeping or eating too little or too much

• Having no energy or motivation

• Trouble focusing, remembering

• Withdrawal from family and friends

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• Not having interest in the newborn baby

Call Olmsted County Public Health Services 328-7500– ask for the intake nurse for children and families.

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