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Postpartum: Those First Few Months

Remember to take care of yourself, too.

By Gwendolyn Zepeda

Having a child can be one of the happiest events of a woman’s life. But childbirth itself is no easy feat. The physical, hormonal and emotional changes it causes can give any mom a case of the baby blues. They can also be more serious, causing postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.

Dr. Joey England, an obstetrician-gynecologist and high-risk pregnancy specialist affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, says symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Changes in sleep, energy, appetite, weight or sex drive
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Irritability or anger
  • Feelings of inadequacy or being unable to care for the baby
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, sadness and depression
  • Thoughts of suicide

Dr. England notes postpartum depression can occur in men, too. Indeed, studies suggest that paternal postpartum depression affects up to 10 percent of new fathers. Either parent’s depression can interfere with parent-child bonding and negatively affect child development. Moms and dads with past histories of depression or abuse, or who are subject to other stressors, are especially at risk.

Parents experiencing the symptoms described above should notify their healthcare providers immediately and not wait to see if symptoms go away on their own. Obstetricians and family doctors can perform initial assessments and recommend a wide array of treatment options, including therapy, home visits by nurses, telephone support and antidepressants.

New parents should know postpartum depression is not an indication of failure or poor parenting. On the contrary, monitoring your health and taking care of yourself is also an important part of taking care of your baby.

FOR IMMEDIATE HELP

People suffering from depression sometimes don’t recognize their symptoms. If you suspect a friend or relative has postpartum depression, please help them reach out for medical attention.

  • If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

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