Postpartum Depression – Part II

By August 24, 2023Health Tips

Last week, we started our discussion about postpartum depression (PPD), which is a serious complication of childbirth. Today we will talk about the possible complications of PPD along with the diagnosis and treatment.

What are the complications of PPD?
PPD can have a ripple effect, causing emotional strain for everyone close to a new baby. If not treated, PPD can have several complications for mothers, children, and for the other parent. These complications include:

Postpartum Depression
For mothers –
  • Untreated PPD can last for months or longer and sometimes becomes an ongoing depressive disorder.
  • Mothers may stop breastfeeding
  • Problems bonding with and/or caring for their baby
  • Higher risk of suicide
  • Increased risk of future episodes of major depression
For children –
  • Higher risk of emotional and behavioral problems
  • Higher risk of sleeping difficulties
  • Higher risk of eating difficulties
  • Delays in language development or other developmental milestones
For the other parent –
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Job difficulties due to additional or unexpected time taken off work
Can PPD be prevented?
The risk for PPD can be decreased by addressing some of the risk factors. This can include making sure that women have support from others during pregnancy and after bringing the baby home, providing breastfeeding support before and after leaving the hospital with the new baby, etc.
Women should also tell their healthcare provider if they have a personal or family history of depression, or other risk factors for PPD. If you are at higher risk, your provider can monitor you closely for symptoms during pregnancy and may recommend early postpartum checkups to screen you for symptoms. If caught early, treatment can start earlier when symptoms may not be as severe. If you have a history of PPD with a prior pregnancy, your provider might recommend treatment with talk therapy or an antidepressant medication immediately after delivery. Most antidepressants are safe to take while breastfeeding.
How is PPD diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will talk with you about your symptoms to help determine if you have PPD. It is important for you to be honest and open about how you’re feeling so that they can make an accurate assessment of your condition.
You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your feelings, thoughts, and other symptoms.
Blood tests may be done to rule out other causes for your symptoms, such as thyroid problems.
How is PPD treated?
Treatment for PPD is tailored to the type and severity of your symptoms. Treatment of PPD can include:
  • Antidepressant medicines – Including the recently FDA-approved medication called zuranolone (brand name Zurzuvae). This is the first approved pill specifically for postpartum depression. Clinical trial research shows that this pill improves symptoms of PPD much faster than other antidepressants.
  • Anti-anxiety medicines – If you are experiencing significant anxiety.
  • Psychotherapy – It can help to talk through your feelings and concerns with a mental health professional. They can help you find ways to cope with your feelings and solve problems.
  • Support groups – Everyone could use more support!
What things can you do at home to help with baby blues or PPD?
  • Get adequate rest
  • Accept help from family and friends
  • Make time to take care of yourself
  • Connect with other new moms
  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs
  • If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, ask your provider about getting help from a professional lactation consultant.
If you or a loved one have symptoms of PPD, contact your healthcare provider. If you have any questions about postpartum depression, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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