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Over the course of their lifetime, 1 in 5 women will experience depression. Being a mother makes a woman particularly susceptible to depression as mothers experience massive bodily changes bringing children into the world. In addition to the physical change, mothers experience other challenges such as familial stress, isolation from family and friends, having a child with a chronic health condition, being in an abusive relationship, or caring for an elderly parent. Maternal depression may affect a mother’s ability to connect with her baby or child, which can have a negative impact on his or her social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Unfortunately, depression in mothers—especially postpartum depression—is all too commonly written off as “just hormones” or “just the blues”, leading many women to not receive the care they need. Studies have found that a mother’s depression is directly tied to her kids’ emotional and intellectual development, so it makes sense that we need to focus on maternal mental health from the time of birth.
The birth of a child can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. However, it can also result in something you might not expect: depression. Too often, depressive symptoms are dismissed as normal for a woman who has just experienced childbirth. If you have had depression in the past or have risk factors for depression, talk with your doctor either before getting pregnant or early in your pregnancy.
Postpartum depression (PPD) can affect a new mom for up to a year following the birth of her baby. But, new studies are finding that depression in mothers can extend until children are much older. Experts agree there’s no single cause of PPD, but rather a combination of hormonal, biochemical, environmental, psychological and genetic factors.
The frequency, intensity, and duration of these symptoms are what distinguish normal “baby blues” from PPD. Baby blues also occurs within just a few days to a week following the birth of a child, but symptoms are not as severe as PPD. Other clues that one is suffering from PPD include:
If a mother is not at her best or taking care of herself, it makes taking care of a child or a family an impossible task, which further contributes to her depression. A health care provider can diagnose symptoms, provide a specialist referral and recommend treatment for PPD or other types of depression. Generally, a combination of psychotherapy and medication are used to reduce symptoms. Mothers should not feel stigmatized if they need help, so be sure to support all the moms you know, as you never know what someone is truly going through.
In addition to getting expert help, there are some ways to cope with PPD and depression:
Depression is not something to be ashamed of. The best way a mom can take care of her family is to take care of herself. Make sure you give the moms you know (and yourself) love and kindness. McNulty Counseling and Wellness offers counseling for women’s issues and this includes treatment for PPD. Read more about Soula’s bio below and give us a call if you or a loved one is going through depression.
About the Author: Theodosia “Soula” Hareas
One of the McNulty Counseling expert therapists specializing in women’s issues is Soula. As a mother of three herself, Soula Hareas, LMHC, knows the feeling of being overwhelmed by the many roles we as mothers go through so she specializes in counseling other mothers having a difficult time adjusting to the many different life-stages of motherhood. Soula can help you restore balance in your life. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Soula began her career working with victims of trauma such as Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and Rape. She is passionate about helping women who are struggling with depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and parenting issues. Soula also partners with the charity Hands Across The Bay to their victims and families counseling for Domestic Violence.