When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter was born two years earlier. Instead I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life. For about five months I had, what I can see in hindsight as postnatal depression, and since that time, I have wanted to know more about it. Not only from a hormonal and scientific standpoint, and why so many of us experience it, but from the perspective of other women who have gone through it. Below is a description of the condition by Dr. Laura Schiller,  a New York city based OB/GYN.

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Identifying Postpartum Depression

For most women, having a baby is a joyous experience, but as many as 70-80% of women can feel sad, anxious, and overwhelmed after childbirth. For the vast majority of women, these are transient feelings that resolve in about one week. Postpartum blues or “baby blues” are considered a normal response to the fluctuations in hormone levels and adjusting to your new life after the
birth of your baby. But if these feelings persist or get worse you may have Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum depression affects about 10% of new mothers and can occur within the 1st few weeks after delivery and even up to a year. Symptoms are similar to a major depression and include feelings of sadness, helplessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and having trouble sleeping, eating, and making choices. Sometimes the mother is not able to care for herself or her baby and she has a difficult time functioning at home and at work. Most importantly women with Postpartum Depression need treatment with counseling and sometimes medication so that the depression does not become worse and last even longer. Anti-depressants are generally considered safe for breastfeeding and when necessary are very helpful in treating the depression.

Dr. Laura Schiller, MD is an Obstetrician and Gynecologist with a practice in New York City. She lives with her husband and twin daughters in NYC.

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