We’re taught that having a baby is the happiest time in a woman’s life, but what may be less acknowledged is that it can also be one of the most stressful and anxiety-producing life transitions a woman will ever experience. It’s common for women to experience the “baby blues,” but up to one in seven women experience postpartum depression (PPD).
WHAT IS BABY BLUES?
The baby blues are characterized by relatively mild symptoms such as irritability, depressed mood, and anxiety. It usually resolves within 10 days of giving birth. Women with especially severe baby blues symptoms are more likely to experience postpartum depression at a later point.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION (PPD)?
Postpartum depression can at first look like the baby blues. In fact, they share many symptoms, including mood swings, crying, sadness, insomnia, and irritability. The difference is that the symptoms of PPD are more severe and longer-lasting. Symptoms may include lack of interest in or negative feelings towards your baby, guilt, lack of energy, change in appetite and sleeping habits, and/or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
HOW POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AFFECTS YOUR BABY
If you’re struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression such as fatigue, irritability, apathy, and tearfulness, it is difficult—if not impossible—to properly look after your newborn’s needs. Your baby will be affected if the depression is left untreated. Children of depressed mothers are more likely to develop behavior problems, sleep problems, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, and developmental delays. Risk for social and emotional problems, language deficits, attentional problems, and depression is increased among children of depressed mothers.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND ATTACHMENT
Mothers with postpartum depression interact less with their babies, and are less likely to breastfeed, play with, and read to their children. They may also be inconsistent in the way they care for their newborns. Although depressed mothers can be loving and attentive at times, at others they may react negatively, or not at all. This inconsistency disrupts the bonding process between mother and child. This emotional bonding process, known as attachment, is the most important task of infancy.
TREATMENT FOR POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
New mothers should remember that postpartum depression is a treatable condition. Dr. Zackson is well versed in many types of therapies for treating PPD:
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COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT)
Research has shown that CBT can be extremely effective in helping with postpartum depression. The work involves identifying and acknowledging automatic thoughts, changing underlying beliefs, differentiating between realistic and false threats, and developing new and more helpful perspectives. CBT helps moms develop coping strategies so that they feel better equipped to manage distress. To learn more about CBT, click here.
INTERPERSONAL THERAPY (IPT)
Another form of therapy Dr. Zackson may use is IPT, currently thought to be one of the most effective therapy models for treating PPD. It focuses on communication skills, building relationships, and increasing self-confidence.
In this type of therapy, a new mother may be encouraged to talk about relationships with parents and other significant people in order to uncover how past experiences have a direct impact on present distress. When moms are able to identify and accept these experiences as playing a role, they are able to begin the process of healing and experience a reduction in tension and distress. To learn more about Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, click here.
In some cases Dr. Zackson will suggest couples therapy to facilitate the healing process. Couples therapy provides a space for partners to be heard during a time of crisis. Couples will learn communication and listening strategies necessary in working through challenges. Often in postpartum work, therapy will address issues related to changing dynamics in a relationship, intimacy challenges, individual needs that may be interfering with connection, and individual needs that are necessary in maintaining the health of a couple’s relationship. To learn more about Couples Therapy, click here.
Whichever type of therapy is right for you for postpartum depression, Dr. Zackson has extensive training and experience. She has treated many patients suffering from PPD (ranging from severely depressed psychiatric inpatients to high-functioning stay at home mothers and working mothers), and has also lectured and written a dissertation on this topic.
Postpartum depression is often a long and lonely battle… but help is available. Dr. Zackson is highly experienced in this area and can help lead you toward wellness. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please click here.