Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

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Healthcare providers are not sure what causes such extreme reactions, most believe postpartum depression stems from the physical and emotional adjustments of having a baby. Other risk factors may include:

  • Past episodes of depression or anxiety
  • Family history of depression, anxiety, obsession compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder or other psychological issues
  • Recent life changes – moving, job change/loss, etc.
  • Losing a close loved one
  • Previous miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion
  • Having high expectations of yourself or others
  • Medical conditions, including thyroid problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Unexpected health concerns with mom or baby
  • Unmet expectations
  • Traumatic or disappointing delivery
  • Unplanned or difficult pregnancy
  • Marital problems
  • Lack of support
  • History of abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal or sexual)
  • History of drug or alcohol abuse
  • Unresolved issues/tension with own mother
  • Multiple children under the age of five
  • Abrupt weaning of breastfeeding

Caring for Yourself
Taking care of yourself can help improve your mood and make things a little more manageable.

  • Healthy eating – Eat when you are hungry; try to enjoy balanced meals; eat protein in increase energy; drink plenty of water; take vitamins, supplements or medications as recommended
  • Sleep – Get plenty of rest; establish a routine for sleeping and waking that matches baby's sleep/wake periods; ask others to help care for baby while you sleep
  • Exercise – Take a walk; life 3-5 lb. weights; create your own exercise routine; find ways to be active that fit into your schedule
  • Relaxation – Learn more about postpartum mood changes; talk to a therapist; visit with other moms at a support group
  • Family and friends – Enjoy time with supportive family and friends; ask them to assist with meals or bring groceries
  • Spiritual care – Pray or meditate; chose activities that promote positive reflection

Suggestions for Family and Friends
Dad and other family or friends didn't cause mom's mood changes and cannot take them away. Close family and friends are often the first to realize something is wrong though, and can help by offering encouragement, lowering expectations and not taking these changes personally. Here are a few ways to help mom get through the rough spots:

  • Make her health and the family's well-being a top priority
  • Discuss possible mood changes with mom before delivery
  • Know the signs of pregnancy and postpartum depression
  • Help mom care for herself and baby
  • Sit and listen to her
  • Take a walk with her
  • Let her sleep
  • Get support and give yourself a break when needed

Resources for Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

Lutheran Hospital's Mood Changes and Moms Support Group

Postpartum Support International
Support helpline (800) 944-4773

Postpartum Dads