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Understanding Postpartum Depression

It's very easy for a new mom to feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for a new baby. The adjustments to your lifestyle, along with hormonal changes and lack of sleep can contribute to what doctors call the "Baby Blues."

Every new mom, at one point or another, will experience a temporary emotional slump, which usually occurs anytime within the first six months after birth. For most women, it lasts only a few days to a few weeks while our bodies adjust to a post-pregnancy state. On the other hand, 1 in 1,000 women will suffer from a more serious form of Baby Blues known as postpartum depression or PPD. The symptoms of PPD are similar to those of the Baby Blues but are much more intense and include: irritability, uncontrollable crying or crying for no apparent reason, insomnia, lack of energy, loss of appetite, panic or anxiety attacks, difficulty concentrating, lack of self-esteem or self-worth, and incapacitating feelings of guilt.

These symptoms last longer than a few weeks and can profoundly affect the entire family. A woman who suffers from postpartum depression may feel that she's made a huge mistake, or may even feel resentment toward her baby. Others can be so depressed that they're unable to get out of bed and don't have the energy to take care of themselves or their newborns

Physical factors can bring on PPD, including physical exhaustion, side-effects of pain medication used during delivery, and lingering pain or complications during recovery.

Genetic factors may also play a role in PPD. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and other mood disorders have a biochemical component which can be inherited much like other health problems.

Women with little or no family support are at a higher risk of developing PPD. A newborn is a huge responsibility to take on if no one is around to help. Feelings of being trapped or isolated are common, especially for those who were career women and feel at odds with this new role. Financial pressure can be a burden as well, worrying about the extra expenses of the baby can make you feel down and depressed.

Trying to be Mom of the Year or trying to keep your house looking like it came from Martha Stewart Living may not be a realistic goal as a new mother. Get your strength back before you set out to win the motherhood marathon. Don't spend time doing things that put stress on you. Less may be more, at least for the first few months.

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