Recognizing Perinatal and Postpartum Depression

By Dr. Traci Thompson Ferguson

Pregnancy and new parenthood can often be emotional times. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there’s a big difference between what is sometimes called the “baby blues” and the clinical condition known as perinatal and postpartum depression – or PPD.

Sometimes the stresses of pregnancy and delivery, fluctuation in hormones and the changes in schedules that occur when a baby is involved can leave women feeling tired, irritable and a bit down. This is commonly known as the “baby blues.” Receiving extra support, enjoying a healthy diet and finding more time to sleep can often times help with these feelings.

However, true PPD is a clinical depression that affects approximately 10 to 20 percent of all childbearing women. It’s a real medical condition that can influence those who are pregnant or who have recently given birth, and it can last for several months.

While it is still a mystery what triggers PPD, it is treatable in several ways, including using self-help techniques, finding a network of support, taking part in professional counseling and even searching out medical help when needed.

If you are pregnant or a new mother, pay close attention for the following signs of PPD:

  • Constant fatigue
  • A lack of joy in life
  • A sense of emotional numbness or feeling trapped
  • Severe insomnia
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • A lack of concern for yourself or your baby
  • Severe insomnia
  • Loss of sexual interest or responsiveness
  • A strong sense of failure or inadequacy
  • Severe mood swings
  • High expectations and an overly demanding attitude
  • A difficulty making sense of things

In extreme cases, women suffering from PPD can develop dangerous feelings of violence. Please get help right away if you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby! Contact your health care provider or doctor, or if it is an immediate emergency, call 9.1.1.

Remember, understanding perinatal and postpartum depression and paying attention for its signs could truly save your life!

ferguson_traciDr. Traci Thompson Ferguson is the chief medical director of medical management for WellCare Health Plans.

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