Postpartum Depression: the underestimated medical risks to mom and baby

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Having a baby is supposed to be a joyous time. But for millions of Americans, it can lead to Postpartum Depression. And doctors say it’s essential to get treatment right away.

Right now, life is going great for Niki Fast. But it wasn’t always this good. “I didn’t realize I was depressed,” Fast says. “I just thought, well, I’m just in a funk.”

When Niki Fast had her second child, she suffered from Postpartum Depression.

Fast reflects, “…there was just a flood of hormones and emotions that I just couldn’t control, and there was shame in it.” 

URMC Doctor Aspen Ainsworth says Postpartum Depression is more common than most people think. 1 in 7 women are diagnosed.

“The common symptoms are sadness, tearfulness…more moodiness than usual, irritability, [and] anger, [as well as] excess anxiety, so worrying about the baby excessively, or feeling detached, or feeling a disregard or disinterest in the baby or family. Also having difficulty sleeping.” says Ainsworth.

“And sometimes thinking about harming oneself or harming the baby [can be a symptom as well] continued Aimsworth.

Postpartum can easily be confused with the “baby blues,” which impact about 80 percent of mothers, and only last a week or two. When trying to distinguish between Postpartum Depression and the so-called “baby blues,” Dr. Ainsworth advises, “usually the symptoms are milder….sadness, tearfulness, fatigue…[but] Postpartum lasts more than two weeks, interferes with the woman’s ability to get through her day, care for herself, care for her baby, and doesn’t go away on it’s own.” 

Treatments for Postpartum Depression include antidepressants and therapy. “I was offered medication…for me I took it in the beginning, but it made me more tired. It made me not as alert.” says Fast. Niki opted for group therapy and forced herself to get out of the house. “I got myself out, I surrounded myself with as many people as possible. But I also…I let myself go through my emotions.”

Doctors say if you think you’re suffering from Postpartum Depression, get help right away.

“Untreated postpartum depression has significant risks. It increases the risk of poor health care for mom. Poor health care and attending appointments for baby. More ER visits…increased risk for maternal suicide.” Ainsworth continued, “It can increase the risk for psychological disorders…distress on the child…”

“I had no idea that I would get through it…that my kids would be fine…that we would be thriving” says Fast. 

Niki Fast is thriving because she got the help she needed, and she hopes others will, too.

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