Higher PPD Risk for Moms in NICU

Neonatal Intensive Care
Creative Commons License photo credit: JOE MARINARO

Postpartum depression is something that many women face. Unfortunately, many women choose to face it alone. By seeking out help for PPD, you have a much higher chance of recovering sooner and enjoying those early days with your baby. There are many things that can put you at risk for PPD, from a predisposition to depression to whether or not you breastfeed. According to experts, the risk for having postpartum depression is even higher for women who have a baby that’s struggling and has to be placed in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The risk is significant. For most women, only about 15 percent will face postpartum depression. For women whose baby is in the NICU, that rate rises significantly to anywhere from 28 percent to 70 percent. The feelings of grief, mourning, and loss of control all contribute significantly to the potential for PPD.

In many instances, a woman who has a baby in the NICU hasn’t had a standard pregnancy or a typical delivery. In some cases, she’s deprived of that precious bonding time that usually occurs right after she gives birth. Instead of holding her baby and starting to breastfeed, the baby is put into an incubator, hooked up to monitors, and more.

For some babies in the NICU, handling may be at a minimum. It could be that there are concerns about the baby’s immune system, or other concerns. While bonding and interaction are tremendously beneficial, medical needs usually take precedence over that kind of bonding.

This can all become overwhelming to the new mom. She may even have restricted visitation with her newborn, feeling alone an alienated.

PTSD Common, as well

Many women who have a struggling newborn in the NICU may also experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, as well. They feel guilt, which can be compounded by the fact that they can’t help their baby.

If left untreated, PPD can be devastating to a woman and her family. The same holds true for PTSD. If you’re recognizing symptoms of either of these, you should talk to your health care provider. There are treatments, but not if you don’t ask about them.


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