Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Postpartum Depression

I'm not a woman, so until a friend gave birth I really never gave any thought to postpartum depression. I've never experienced the massive hormonal changes that a woman's body is put through, and that are a significant factor in these cases. But this site had some really interesting things to say.

"Some women don’t tell anyone about their symptoms because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy. " Hmm, that sounds familiar . . . I guess postpartum depression might have some different causes, but it's the same evil monkey on your back regardless. The extra twist of guilt that comes because you have brought a new life into the world and feel bad is a nice touch.

"Some researchers have found that depression during pregnancy can raise the risk of delivering an underweight baby or a premature infant." In case there is anyone left on the planet that doesn't get it yet, depression is a disease that has physical symptoms. "It's all in your head" is a fine and dandy way to minimize it unless you consider the fact that your head, your brain, is the controlling force in every aspect of your life. Your body is affected by depression. Your spirit certainly so. And if you a bringing a new life into the world, its very survival can be affected by depression. It's not about guilt or shame. If you had cancer and you were pregnant you would take care not to let the treatments harm your child. If you had HIV you would take pains to minimize the risk of your child getting the disease. If you are sick and pregnant, or become sick while pregnant, you need to get treatment, for your child's sake as well as your own.

"Postpartum depression can affect a mother’s ability to parent. She may lack energy, have trouble concentrating, be irritable, and not be able to meet her child’s needs for love and affection." This just adds to the cascading failure that depression feeds. If you're limited in your energy and motivation to parent, you know it. It causes guilt, which feeds the depression.

Many women experience massive mood swings in the days following a birth. Anyone who knows a woman who is about to give birth or has just done so needs to be especially aware of her state of mind, so that it can be quickly determined if those hormonal changes have set into motion a longer term problem.

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