I was intrigued by NPR’s On Point earlier this week when radio host Tom Ashbrook moderated a discussion on p0stpartum depression (PPD). I turned the radio up to hear. As the mother of two, a women’s health RN for over a decade, and a woman who suffered from some form of PPD for more than two years, I understand first hand how dangerous and real PPD is for men and women alike. Researchers now say that there are even more new parents battling depression after the birth of a baby than originally thought.
Post partum depression isn’t something most moms and dads can plan for. It happens for a variety of reasons, some of which include physical factors such as thyroid complications or hormonal shifts , situational issues like poor family support or stress, and many others. Doctors are getting a little bit better at identifying those women who may be at risk for PPD, but still many more overlook the issue. I remember for myself–when I finally got up the nerve to mention it to my doctor he told me it “must be something at home”. There was nothing going on at home.
Study shows more women are depressed
NPR’s panel of experts went on air this week to discuss a study of women–they used a screening tool that evaluated the emotional state of new moms 4-6 months after delivery and about 14% screened positive for some type of depression. Of that number, a much higher percentage actually had bipolar depression (where you are up one day and very down the next) versus unipolar depression (your just sad all the time).
Depression comes in many forms and may manifest as anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or generalized depression. Severe cases can lead to confusion about reality or impulses to hurt the baby or for mom to harm herself. In this situation, it is very important to seek the help of a medical professional.
Inpatient help at UNC for new moms
I learned that the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has its own inpatient unit just for post partum mothers. Designed much like a hospital’s maternity ward, the model is breaking history’s trend and helping mothers heal in a safe environment with medical providers who are specifically trained in this area. Doctor Samantha Meltzer-Brody (@smeltzerb) is director of reproductive psychiatry for the program which may be one of very few (if not the only) inpatient programs in the country.
Thankfully for me, a simple thyroid correction helped and we’ve made it through happy and healthy. Post partum depression is a heated topic–but it is very real for those who have lived through it. If you need help with post partum depression, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor. If you are a patient of Dr. Hessel’s please call us for an appointment she can talk with you and help you find peace from this battle.