Postpartum red flags

I’ve been feeling a bit “off” since giving birth, and I’m not sure if what i’m experiencing is normal or maybe something more serious, like postpartum depression. How can I tell?

A: It’s normal to feel a little down and overwhelmed when you have a new baby; sometimes this is called the “baby blues.” however, warning signs of a more serious condition include not sleeping when baby is sleeping, scary thoughts, feeling inadequate and unable to cope, poor bonding with baby, excessive irritability, and impairing anxiety and panic attacks.

If you’re concerned what you’re feeling is not normal or healthy, the best thing to do is to call your doctor or midwife. If you feel as though you might harm yourself or your baby, going to an emergency room is also a good option.

Something families should know is that it’s sometimes hard for a new mom to recognize how bad she’s feeling, and loved ones may have to help her see that she needs care. Although there are risk factors for postpartum depression (including history of depression or anxiety in the past or during pregnancy, a high-risk pregnancy or delivery, and a history of or current poor pregnancy outcome), it’s important to realize that postpartum depression can happen to anyone. increasingly, OB providers are screening for depression during pregnancy and after delivery, which allows for early recognition and intervention.

The good news is that postpartum depression is being more widely acknowledged and effective treatments are available. Therapy, bonding support and sometimes medication are prescribed depending on individual needs. No one needs to suffer alone.

—TANYA SORENSON, MD, MEDNAX-affiliated maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Swedish Maternal and Fetal Specialty Center in Seattle

Images: Courtesy of Kitzcorner

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