In late October, singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette disclosed to CBS News that she was suffering from postpartum depression for the third time.
Her goal was to open up a conversation about mental health issues.
“Understanding and giving the details of what it looks like from the inside is important,” stated Morissette.
Over 80% of women experience sadness or blues after giving birth. “Baby blues” typically resolve on their own within a few days to two weeks after delivery. Around 20% of women may encounter more intense and longer-lasting symptoms, leading to postpartum depression, which may interfere with their ability to emotionally bond with their new babies, or to function in social or job settings.
Mothers with depression frequently experience sad mood, bouts of tearfulness, sense of worthlessness or hopelessness, overwhelming feelings, questioning of their ability to care for the baby or feeling disconnected from the newborn, and problems falling or staying asleep. Other symptoms can be lack of pleasure, decreased concentration, difficulty enjoying activities, irritability and increased frustration.
In severe cases, mothers can experience death wishes and thoughts of self-harm or harming others, which warrant calling 911 or visiting an emergency room.
Postpartum depression is a stressful experience for the mother, baby and family. It can interfere with breastfeeding and may affect the psychological and physical development of the baby.
A mental health professional can evaluate and manage symptoms, Medications can provide relief, allowing for better emotional bonding with the baby and improved communication with others. Talk therapy helps to identify stressors and develop healthy coping strategies. Support groups are available through Florida’s Healthy Start or Postpartum Support International.
It is essential to look after our loved ones’ physical and emotional well-being, especially as they navigate through the early phase of motherhood. Being attentive to their emotional needs and consulting with a psychiatrist can help point out early signs of postpartum depression, prevent deterioration of their mental well-being, and allow for a healthy emotional bonding with the baby.
Vanessa Padilla, M.D., is an assistant professor of consultation-liaison psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Health System. Mousa Botros, M.D., is a forensic psychiatry fellow. To learn more, visit umiamihealth.org/psychiatry.