My mother had warned me before I had my first baby that she had needed some 'medicine' after she had my brother. I discovered as I read more that the tendency to develop the condition can be hereditary, but ppd can also appear out of nowhere. Back then, I mostly wondered how I would be able to tell the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. (I later learned that the baby blues will dissipate after a few weeks, while ppd takes root and grows on beyond that first few tumultuous weeks.)
The feelings of sadness I experienced when I had my first child were profound, but did seem to lift after a short while. This second baby was a completely different story. With an immature digestive system, she was unable to process breast milk and screamed her head off all day and night, each and every day. She would literally sleep for 20 minutes at a time.
I was a nervous wreck from lack of sleep and worry. I also had overwhelming feelings of hopelessness; I was sure things would never get better. Then about eight weeks after her birth, I had three different sources (my mother, a good friend and our pediatrician's nurse) suggest to me I might want to see my doctor for some help. I was a little resistant at first; I have to confess that I had associated a stigma with any type of mood or mental disorder. Plus, I was in the throes of a depression, which made it hard to get up the gumption to do something about it.
But I eventually mustered up the energy and courage to see my doctor, who immediately diagnosed me as having postpartum depression. She started me on a course of antidepressant drugs (treatment must continue for at least six months to prevent a recurrence) and put me in touch with a wonderful therapist.
If you or someone close to you seems to be experiencing a depression after a birth, there are several avenues of help available. Of course, a great place to start is by visiting your physician, or at a minimum, mentioning the difficulties to your obstetrician/gynecologist during that six-week postpartum checkup.
These experts know what symptoms spell trouble and how to prescribe a helpful medication, if necessary. I know it sounds crazy to suggest you read anything when you are so frazzled you can't even comb your hair, but there are many terrific materials on the subject available.
I was ecstatic to find Brooke Shields' book, Down Came The Rain. It helped beyond words to hear the personal experience of someone so bright, beautiful and talented. Her bibliography led me to another fantastic, eye-opening resource: Women's Moods: What Every Woman Must Know About Hormones, the Brain and Emotional Health, by Deborah Sichel, M.D., and Jeanne Watson Driscoll, M.D., R.N., C.S. For me, there was a terrible loneliness associated with my ppd.
It takes guts to admit you need help. But you and your family will be happier and healthier for it. Know that you are not alone, and that it is not your fault."
Submitted by Amy McFadden, Springfield Moms Advisory Board. For more information: