Carolyn Kagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist. She owns Alliance Therapy Practice here in Stamford. You can learn more about her in this month’s Meet A Mom! She is a maternal mental health specialist, has advanced training in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and also serves on the board of Postpartum Support International’s Connecticut chapter. She partners with women before, during and after pregnancy to develop practical skills to capture the most joy in their transition to motherhood.
Stamford Moms has teamed up with Carolyn for the next three months to answer all your anonymous questions related to Maternal Mental Health. Please keep in mind, the suggestions contained in this column, are merely that, and should not be substituted for diagnosis and/or treatment by your own medical professional.
What’s the difference between Postpartum Depression and baby blues?
This is such a great question because these two emotional states are so often confused. The simplest difference between Postpartum Depression (PPD) and the “baby blues” are the duration and intensity of symptoms. The “baby blues” are characterized by some mild mood variability, tearfulness and irritability; similar to PMS, and last up until 2-3 weeks postpartum. About 80% of women will experience the baby blues and they are not a mental health condition per se, because they are so brief and the symptoms naturally lift on their own. However, if symptoms don’t go away after that or become more intense, then PPD could be considered.
Is it normal to feel a little sad after having a baby? What are things I should look out for when it comes to Postpartum Depression? If I’m feeling sad, who should I reach out to first?
Between the rapid hormonal shifts and the incredible role that has just been undertaken (among other things), it’s more common than not to experience some sadness in the wake of having a baby and I can appreciate your proactive approach. If several weeks have passed since having your baby and you’re still feeling sad, irritable, overwhelmed, fearful, withdrawn, have lost interest in previously pleasurable activities and there’s a noticeable change in your appetite and sleep unrelated to the baby, then you should speak with a trusted loved one to see if they’ve observed similar changes and then connect with your medical provider for further assessment.
I’m pregnant and prone to depression. Is there anything I can do before having my baby to prevent Postpartum Depression?
Simply asking that question demonstrates the kind of self awareness that will help to aid you in this process. While postpartum depression is not “preventable” there are plenty of things that you can do to bolster your protective factors against developing the condition. While I almost always recommend being mindful of proper nutrition and lifestyle habits, it might also be helpful to become educated about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, discuss them with your partner and/or loved ones as well as your medical provider and put adequate support systems in place for your transition to motherhood.
I get so nervous and anxious every time I have to leave the house with my 2 month old. What can I do to get over this?
That sounds really difficult and it’s something I hear a lot from the new moms that I work with. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you need to “get over” this. However, I imagine that you’d like to gain the tools necessary to better manage these feelings in order to get out and have the experiences that you’re looking for. It might be helpful to explore what makes you feel anxious about this particular task and develop some positive self talk along with targeted strategies, that will need to be practiced, until this becomes easier.
Is the solution to Postpartum Depression always going on medication?
There are many options available for the treatment of postpartum depression, and no one should be limited to medication alone. In fact, one of the most effective treatments for postpartum depression is a style of talk therapy called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” that helps build the relationship between one’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Additionally, you can discuss with your providers about what kinds of dietary adjustments, nutritional supplementations and lifestyle changes might also be helpful. Last , but not least, alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, reiki, etc. can also make wonderful complements to a mom’s treatment protocol.