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Postpartum depression

Having a baby is usually one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, but for some women, it can include times of sadness and depression.

Life with a new baby can be thrilling and rewarding, but it can also be hard and stressful for some mothers.  Many physical and emotional changes happen to women during pregnancy and childbirth, which can cause sadness and depression says Dr. Karen Broquet, professor of internal medicine and psychiatry at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.

“When a women has a baby, there are huge changes in multiple hormones. Estrogen and progesterone levels plummet. There is a hormone called prolactin that is kind of all over the place, depending on if the mom is nursing or not.  There are sometimes changes in the thyroid hormone.” 

Postpartum depression affects approximately 10 to 15 percent of new mothers.  It often causes anxiety and obsession about caring for the baby.  It may cause changes in sleep patterns and affect relationships, including the ability to form a bond with the baby and other family members.  Some mothers with postpartum depression have thoughts of wanting to die or of hurting the baby.  Dr. Broquet offers some suggestions for new mothers who are having difficulty coping.

“Getting formal treatment is one.  Making sure that you are taking care of yourself – is another one, getting good sleep, eating nutritiously, keeping check on some of the sort of negative self-doubt things that new mothers are prone to be vulnerable to.  The other big thing is utilizing all of the supports in your life.”

Dr. Broquet says it’s important for new mothers to have realistic expectations of what they can do and not try to be Supermom. 

If a new mother’s sadness or depression does not subside within a few weeks, she should see a physician or mental health counselor.

Ruth Slottag