Pregnancy and Parenting Features

Postpartum Depression Becoming More Understood and Accepted

With Amalie asleep, Leilani is texting friends and family
Creative Commons License photo credit: Lars Plougmann

One of the biggest barriers for women experiencing postpartum depression was the feeling that getting treatment would make her look weak, or like she wasn’t a good mother. The guilt that can accompany postpartum depression can be significant, and when you have celebrities jumping on couches declaring how it isn’t a legitimate condition, it can be intimidating.

There was even a time when physicians didn’t really recognize the seriousness of postpartum depression. Women asked for help, only to be told they’re ungrateful or that they should just get over it.

Fortunately, according to a new study, things are changing for women with postpartum depression. That’s good news, because according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 13% of pregnant women and mothers of newborns experience postpartum depression. Some experts suggest that the real number might be almost twice that, at 25%.

Advancements in diagnosis

There have been significant strides among health care providers in recognizing and diagnosing postpartum depression in the past several years. Awareness has blossomed over the past 10 years or so. There is much less stigma.

There are a number of diagnostic tools, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, being used by health care providers. Some states, such as Illinois, actually require the use of this scale.

Many health care providers are incorporating screening for postpartum depression as part of the normal pregnancy and post-pregnancy care process.

Contributing factors

There are many things that can increase postpartum depression. At it’s root, it’s caused by hormonal changes after pregnancy. Add in things like the basic lifestyle changes that go along with being a new mom and the sleep deprivation that comes from having a baby in the house, and you can see why so many women experience postpartum depression.

Treatment options

There are many treatment options for postpartum depression, too. There are medications that are safe for use during and after pregnancy while breastfeeding. Therapy has been shown to help significantly, as well. The important thing is to talk to your doctor. The good news is that she’s much more likely to be able to diagnose and treat your postpartum depression than she might have been just a decade ago.