Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Symptoms of postpartum depression

        What is postpartum depression?

        About 50-75 percent of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” a period marked by crying and disappointment usually for a few days. It eases on its own.

        About 10 percent of women will experience postpartum depression, which can occur anytime within the baby's first year. Women feel disappointed and afraid to care for their newborns. Symptoms also include:

        • Anxiety and panic attacks.

        • Uncontrolled crying, confusion, forgetfulness.

        • Extreme mood swings.

        • Depression and feelings of inadequacy as mothers.

        • Anger toward the baby or their spouse/partner.

        • Overconcern for the baby.

        • Lack of interest in the baby.

        • Fear of harming the baby.

        • Withdrawal from a spouse/partner and friends.

        • Lack of interest in sex.

        • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much with extreme fatigue.

        Seek professional help from a doctor, midwife, psychologist or psychiatrist if symptoms don't resolve in two weeks and if the woman's or baby's physical or mental health is at risk.

        A severe form of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, is marked by hallucinations, confusion, suicidal or destructive thoughts and difficulty caring for a child. Hospitalization might be necessary.

        Sources: The Planned Parenthood Women's Health Encyclopedia (Crown; $22); The Women's Complete Wellness Book (Golden Books; $37.95).


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