Postpartum Depression

Social IssuesWomen's Issues

  • Author Shelley Sommerfeldt, Psy.d.
  • Published August 15, 2012
  • Word count 522

With recent celebrity discussion, postpartum depression has been more evident in the news media than ever before. However, there are still many misunderstandings regarding postpartum depression and its treatment.

A postpartum depression can be seen anytime within the first year after childbirth, and between 10-20% of mothers suffer from postpartum depression. This depression can be seen not only after childbirth, but also sometimes during pregnancy, following a miscarriage, stillbirth or termination of a pregnancy. A woman may experience several symptoms during or after pregnancy, which will impact her ability to accomplish daily tasks.

These symptoms may include:



Trouble concentrating

Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

Loss of interest or pleasure in life

Loss of appetite

Less energy or motivation to do things

A hard time falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping more than usual

Increased crying

Feeling hopeless or overly guilty

Restlessness or anxiety

Unexplained weight loss or weight gain

Having thoughts about hurting yourself or about hurting your baby

Many women experience emotional changes after childbirth; however, some differences between postpartum depression and "the baby blues" are that postpartum depression is less common, lasts for a longer period of time, the symptoms are more intense, and the effect influences a woman’s ability to function as she normally would.

Many women feel embarrassed or guilty for feeling this way. However, receiving treatment is essential to help mothers effectively parent their child. Mothers may be greatly impacted by these feelings and thus lose confidence in their ability to parent, which can also increase their depression. The research shows that postpartum depression can impact the infant by causing distress, difficulty with emotional bonding, delays in development, and behavioral problems.

Here are some tips for helping yourself:

  1. Take some of the pressure off yourself. You are not "Supermom". Be honest about how much you can do and be willing to ask others for help. This could include help during nighttime feedings, such as having your partner bring the baby to you at night, or help with household chores from a family member, neighbor, friend, or professional services. This social support will help you find time for yourself so you can rest.

  2. Finding time for rest is important. Take frequent naps when another person is helping you or when the baby is also sleeping.

  3. Talk about your feelings! Speak with friends, family, and your partner about what you are feeling. This can help to alleviate some of your emotional pain as well as find support in others.

Another idea is to keep a journal to write in daily, which can assist you in expressing your feelings and "letting it all out."

  1. Find time to spend alone, just something for yourself, which could include reading, exercising (such as walking), taking a bath, writing in your journal, or meditating.

  2. Understand your feelings. Know that you are not alone, and that it's okay and normal to feel overwhelmed. Bringing a child into the world brings many changes and many challenges.

  3. Find additional support. Call a local hotline number, search in your phonebook for information and services, join a local support group for women, or seek professional therapy.

Dr. Sommerfeldt is a clinical psychologist practicing in Hermosa Beach, CA. She specializes in individual & couples psychotherapy & treats a variety of issues: depression, anxiety, grief & loss, body image, parenting, relationship difficulties & overall personal growth. She received Bachelor's in Counseling Psych from Texas A&M, Master's in Family Psych from Hardin Simmons & Doctorate in Clinical Psych from Alliant International University.

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