I did this interview with Dallas Ch. 11 CBS news on December 18, 2009.
Around 80% of postpartum women experience what is known as the baby blues which starts within the first few days to a week after birth and lasts a couple of weeks postpartum. The baby blues can cause women to have mood swings, and feel fatigued, weepy, unable to sleep, irritable, anxious, and emotionally stressed. While the baby blues is considered a form of depression it usually does not last longer than a few weeks postpartum. If these signs and symptoms continue for longer then a few weeks postpartum the woman is often believed to be suffering from postpartum depression. About 20% of postpartum women will actually experience postpartum depression (PPD), which can last for months after the birth of the baby and may arise at any time within the first year postpartum. Signs and symptoms of baby blues are very similar to those of PPD, with PPD being more severe and lasting for a longer period of time.
Symptoms of PPD are:
* Lack of interest in your baby – Not desiring to hold, care for (diaper changes, feedings, etc.), or, often times, to even be near your baby. Doing these things may elicit feelings of frustration, guilt, loneliness, desperation, and sometimes even anger in the mother.
* The inability to sleep – Insomnia
* Weepiness – Unexplainable and often unpredictable
* Physical aches and pains
* Lack of interest in things that once were enjoyable and made you happy
* Loss or Increase in Appetite
* General anxiety and worrying
* Difficulty concentrating
* Moody or Irritable
* Withdrawal from activities, family, and friends
* Feelings of guilt – Can be general or specific, or even unidentifiable and unexplainable
* Feeling overwhelmed
* Panic Attacks – pounding heart, dizziness, confusion, feelings of impending doom, things often seem chaotic around you when they actually are not
* Negative or Scary Thoughts – Unexplainable and unpredictable
* Suicidal Thoughts – Immediately contact someone for support or help if experiencing this!
Diagnosis of PPD must be done by a health care professional.
Often times moms who experience PPD will have feelings of inadequacy as a mother, wife, and in other areas of her life. These feelings of inadequacy, lack of interest in baby, and negative or scary thoughts can have a major negative impact on mother-infant bonding. If you experience these things find support and help.
Visit the Postpartum Care Class page for a list of postpartum support resources and contacts.
There are many thoughts as to why the baby blues and PPD occur, and there are many things that can impact the postpartum mother. The experience and outcomes of the pregnancy, labor, birth, and health of the baby will all have huge implications on the mother emotionally. If a mother experienced a very traumatic birth her hormones are drastically influenced by the emotions she felt during the experience and continues to feel regarding the experience. Hormones directly affect how we feel emotionally and physically. So, it is easy to see that fatigue, moodiness, irritability, and all the other symptoms can easily manifest in the early days postpartum if a mother experiences a traumatic birth. Hormones also have an impact on the ability of the mother to lactate sufficiently or at all. If breastfeeding was desired and negatively impacted by to the hormonal imbalance that the emotions experienced during and after the traumatic birth, this will perpetuate the issues by leading to stress, feelings of guilt, inadequacy, failure, and more.
Even for women who experience their “perfect” birth, or a birth that went well and did not have a negative emotional impact on them , still experience a hormonal imbalance postpartum, all women do. George Chrousos, an endocrinologist, led a study done at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that discovered that new mothers have lower than normal levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which helps the body fight off depression, regulate blood-sugar levels, and maintain normal blood pressure when experiencing stress. We all know that adjusting to life with a newborn, regardless if it is your first or fifth child, is stressful to some degree on the new mother.
So, how do we combat or, even better, strive to prevent the baby blues and PPD from starting?
This question has a multifaceted answer, as it is a combination of things that can lead to the onset, it is also a combination of things that can work to combat or prevent it.
I think that Jodi Selander‘s article, “How to Have a Happy Postpartum: Prepare for Your Best Postpartum Experience” has the best advice available!
In addition to the 8 tips that Jodi lays out in this article there is a precious gift that God has given postpartum moms to aid in their hormonal balance and physical recovery postpartum, the placenta. The study done at NIH led by Chrousos showed that the placenta produced large amounts of CRH during the end of the pregnancy and once the placenta is birthed those levels begin to drastically drop in the mother. Another study showed that placenta can alter hormones. So, that leads us to using the placenta for postpartum healing and recovery. Using the placenta for healing can be done a variety of ways; consuming it raw, cooking it in a meal, blending it in a smoothie, or freezing it in bite size pieces to be eaten or put in a smoothie; but you do NOT have to do any of these methods mentioned in order to obtain the healing benefits of the placenta. The most appealing method is to have the placenta encapsulated into pills so that you can take it just like any other supplement, along with your prenatal vitamins, which should be continued during the postpartum period as well, especially if nursing. Mothers who have taken their own placenta pills have reported mood stability, increased energy, ability to focus, and an overall general happiness. Placenta has even been shown to help aid in lactation.
With such amazing evidence to the benefits of maternal placenta consumption for postpartum healing and recovery, I believe that every mother should have the availability to keep her placenta after birth and have it made into pills if she so chooses.
I know I, personally, had amazing result from taking my placenta pills and will certainly be doing it after all my subsequent births.
Leigh Anne DuChene