What is Postpartum Depression?
Picture this—you’ve just given birth to your first baby. The rush of emotions you feel post-delivery—regardless of complications—is unmatched.
You’re over the moon in love. You’re also exhausted and in pain. Additionally, you’re trying to figure out this breastfeeding or formula thing plus how to care for a newborn. You spend a few days in the hospital recovering and then suddenly, you’re on your own.
Maybe you have a partner or family member to help. Maybe not. But either way, bringing home a newborn baby is anxiety inducing.
Your mind—fueled by sleep deprivation and postpartum hormones—has a tendency to run rampant.
Is she eating enough? Is she warm enough? Is she breathing? Why won’t she stop crying?
Adjusting to motherhood can be difficult. You have a tiny human that depends on you for survival. The highs are high, the lows are low.
And for 1 in 5 women, postpartum depression begins to set in.
Breaking Down Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Postpartum depression or PPD for short, is depression that occurs during pregnancy or after childbirth. Typically, postpartum depression strikes within the first month or 2 after delivery, but can occur anytime within the first year of childbirth.
What are the symptoms of PPD?
- Feeling depressed, anxious or irritable most days
- Experiencing mood swings
- Daily bouts of crying that span beyond the first week of birth
- Having little interest in your normal activities
- Feeling exhausted
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling anxious
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Having intrusive thoughts about self-harm or harming your baby
What causes PPD?
Many women are afraid to admit they’re suffering from PPD. This is detrimental to their healing process and puts both mom and baby at risk.
But there is no shame in having PPD. Postpartum depression is not your fault and far more common than you think.
While the exact cause of PPD is unknown, scientists believe it’s a mix of genetics, fluctuating post-pregnancy hormone levels, and environmental factors.
Basically, things out of your control. The sooner you get help, the sooner you can start to feel better.
Postpartum Depression: The Numbers
Just how common is PPD? Consider the following statistics:
- 1 in 7 women experiences postpartum depression (source)
- 70% of all new mothers experience the “baby blues” (a short-lasting condition) (source)
- 20% of maternal deaths after childbirth are from suicide (source)
- If you’ve had PPD before, your risk increases by 30% each pregnancy (source)
- PPD rates increased during the first year of the pandemic (source)
- African American and Hispanic mothers are more prone to postpartum depression (source)
As you can see, postpartum depression is not only extremely common, but a rising trend.
3 Problems With Postpartum Depression Treatment In America
I’ve treated thousands of women during pregnancy and post-partum. Here’s what I know—the American healthcare system is failing women. Here are the 3 main problems with how postpartum depression is treated in America:
1. Minimal Postpartum Care
The postpartum period is one of the most vulnerable times in a woman’s life. But it’s not treated that way in America. You get more post-op follow ups for simple cosmetic procedures than you do post-birth.
Many women only have one post-partum check-up with their OB-GYN around the 6 week mark. This is outrageous. It’s nowhere near what is needed to support a new mom.
I follow a very different schedule to make sure I’m supporting women through this tough time. For an uncomplicated vaginal birth, we schedule either in-person or telehealth visits at 2 and 4 weeks postpartum, with an in-person visit at 6 weeks. This is my basic guide, but we customize postpartum visits based on the unique needs of each patient
2. Lack of Access to Postpartum Resources
In order to minimize PPD, women need access to a host of postpartum services. Any good OB-GYN should provide patients with a list of specialists she can call on for support including:
- Pelvic Floor Therapist
- Post-Partum Therapists
3. Antidepressants over Assistance
American doctors are far too quick to prescribe antidepressants to women. About 1 in 5 women over the age of 40 are on an antidepressant. For some, this is a life saving medication. But for many, it’s a bandaid doing little to resolve the actual problem—lack of personalized, holistic care.
Sadly, postpartum depression is just one type of mental health crisis American women face. Women deserve better and it’s my life-mission to help them get the care they deserve.