A MOTHER hugs her baby soon after giving birth..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Postpartum depression, which some have speculated could be the reason a Jerusalem mother of four daughters murdered them and then committed suicide, occurs in every society but it can be treated successfully if identified in time.
Among the symptoms, which can show up months or rarely even years after giving birth, include depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, loss of appetite or eating too much, withdrawing from family and friends, insomnia or oversleeping, overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy, difficulty bonding with the baby, reduced interest and pleasure in activities one used to enjoy, severe anxiety and panic attacks, thoughts of harming oneself or one’s baby, intense irritability and anger, feelings of worthlessness, a reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
It isn’t the “baby blues” – feelings of restlessness, anxiety and irritation accompanied by occasional crying that affects between half to 80% of new mothers and usually disappears untreated after a week or two. Postpartum depression, which is moderate to severe depression, does not fade away by itself and must be treated.
International studies estimate the prevalence at between 5% and 25% of mothers and even some of the fathers.
This should not be confused with an even-rarer phenomenon (one or two per 1,000 births) of postpartum psychosis, which is a separate psychiatric disorder with symptoms such as hallucination, disturbed thoughts, delusions or disorganized behavior or speech and which usually attacks those who already suffer from mental illness.
New mothers are quietly screened for PPD when they bring their newborns to baby clinics. Nurses there are experts in holistic care, including pregnancy, breastfeeding, vaccinations, home safety, vaccinations, family violence and physical and social problems.
Not only the baby is examined, but the woman is, too.
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Mothers who feel something is wrong with them should choose the doctor or nurse with whom they are most comfortable and make him or her know how they are feeling. They should undergo tests for thyroid function and do a complete blood count to make sure that physiological problems are not responsible.
Mothers should learn about PPD and should not be afraid to discuss their feelings with a professional.
Antidepressant medication, including some that do not cause problems in breastfeeding, can be prescribed. A good therapist can also be very helpful.
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