Having a new baby is supposed to be a joyful time, but it can be an emotional struggle for many women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD), and it can severely impact their daily life, including the ability to breastfeed. The good news is that if a woman seeks treatment early, it is still possible to meet breastfeeding goals if that is what she wants.

Who is at risk?

While no one is immune to PPD, some factors can increase the risk for many people, such as:

-A history of depression during or after previous pregnancies

-Previous bipolar episodes

-A family history of mental health issues

-Experiencing significant life stressors during or after pregnancy such as job loss, death of a loved one, or domestic violence

-Medical issues during the pregnancy

-Traumatic birth experience

-A lack of support system

-A history of substance abuse

PPD usually begins within a month after childbirth, but it can present anytime during the first year. It’s likely to be caused by a mixture of emotional and physical factors. A woman’s body undergoes considerable hormonal changes after giving birth, and these changes can lead to erratic behavior and drastic mood swings. In addition, the sleep deprivation that comes along with having a newborn baby can exacerbate many of the symptoms of PPD.

Mothers dealing with postpartum may also struggle with bonding and doubt their ability to care for their new baby. In the most severe cases of postpartum, a new mom may have thoughts of harming herself or her child, which is why early treatment of PPD is vital.

The pressure to breastfeed during Postpartum

There is intense social pressure on new mothers to breastfeed. While breastfeeding is commonly recognized as the best nutrition source for infants, it does not come easily to many, resulting in new mothersfeeling alone and like they’re failing if they have difficulties with breastfeeding.

After giving birth, many women have mood swings, feel alone, overwhelmed, have trouble sleeping, and feel like they’re riding a hormonal roller coaster. In addition, many are left feeling incompetent because they’re having a hard time breastfeeding, or they can’t breastfeed for medical reasons, which can only add to the feelings of depression.

Treatment for PPD and ways to support mental health while breastfeeding

The common types of treatment for postpartum depression are therapy and medication. Antidepressants can help relieve the symptoms of PPD, and some can be taken while breastfeeding, but you should always consult with your physician. Some antidepressants may not have a noticeable effect for several weeks.

Getting early treatment for PPD is crucial. If it goes untreated, postpartum depression can last for months- even years. Mothers with undiagnosed postpartum depression may have trouble bonding with their babies, which can cause a host of other physical and mental issues for both mother and baby.

If breastfeeding is helping a mom with PPD bond with her baby, her treatment should be structured around encouraging and protecting that breastfeeding relationship. Conversely, if breastfeeding issues contribute to PPD symptoms, a new mom should never feel guilty if she chooses not to continue.

Other ways to support a new mom’s mental health when breastfeeding are to make sure she’s taking care of her physical health by eating and drinking plenty of water. Offer to hold the baby so she can shower or take a nap. Arrange a meal train, so she doesn’t have to worry about cooking and encourage her to take people up on their offers to help with household chores or watching her other children. Most of all, encourage her to see a therapist if she’s struggling with severe PPD symptoms.

If you’re a new parent and you or your spouse is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t wait to seek treatment. Call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment today.