Here is an interesting interview with Anne Sheffield about postpartum depression. Anne is a writer who has authored books about her family’s experience with depression. I appreciate the way Anne acknowledges that postpartum depression has an impact on all family members and all family relationships. She manages to emphasize this point while also punctuating the important facts that 1) the illness is an illness, NOT a weakness, and 2) it is a no-fault illness.

1. WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPROTANT THING THAT YOU THINK EXPECTANT COUPLES SHOULD KNOW ABOUT POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?

Every expectant couple should know that postpartum depression (PPD) afflicts as many as 15% or more of new mothers. It is also important to learn to distinguish PPD from the “baby blues” experienced by most women after giving birth. The baby blues – mood swings from happiness to tears, sleeping and appetite problems,  a downturn in their ability to concentrate, and a suspicion that perhaps they aren’t up to the demands of motherhood – typically start a few days after giving birth and last for a week or so.  But a substantial number of new mothers, through no fault of their own, develop postpartum depression. PPD’s symptoms mimic those of depression unrelated to giving birth with a major exception:  mothers with PPD feel little or no connection to their infants and may even endure terrifying fantasies of harming them, inviting consuming guilt and self-hatred.  And so these agonized mothers often try to pretend that all is well, sharing neither symptoms nor fears with their husbands/partners or their doctors.

2. IN YOUR BOOK, DEPRESSION FALLOUT, YOU SPEAK TO THE IMPACT THAT DEPRESSION HAS ON MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS. HOW DO YOU BELIEVE DISTRESSED MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS CONTRIBUTE TO DEPRESSION?

A persistently unhappy relationship is one of several factors that can contribute to a partner’s depression, although not everyone involved in a distressed relationship develops depression. Although the exact cause of depression is still unknown, researchers agree that a combination of genetic and environmental factors make some people particularly vulnerable to it. A history of depression in the family and previous episodes of depression may signal a possible genetic vulnerability. Among the environmental factors that can act as “triggers” are: a stressful relationship, lack of a social support system, and prolonged low self-esteem.

3. THE GLOBE AND MAIL RECENTLY QUOTED DR. VALERIE WHIFEN STATING “ONE OF THE BEST PREDICTORS OF WHO WILL SUFFER POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION IS WHETHER A WOMAN’S RELATIONSHIP (WITH A SPOUSE/PARTNER) IS STRAINED BEFORE THE BIRTH.” WHAT ARE YOUR BEST RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PREVENTING POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?

The best way to prevent the damage that postpartum depression inflicts on the mother, the father, and, most important of all, on the baby, is for the couple to be aware of the genetic and environmental risk factors, and also the symptoms of PPD and how they manifest themselves.  Equally important is telling the attending physician in advance about any possible depression risk factors, both genetic and environmental, so that he/she will be on the lookout for baby blues that last more than a few days, and may in fact be PPD. Depression is a no-fault physical illness that can be successfully treated – the earlier treatment begins, the less severe the depression will be and the less damage it will do, in the present and in the future, to both mother and baby, and of course to the relationship.  The terrible guilt that PPD mothers endure is heartbreaking. The single most important thing for PPD mothers to know is that prompt, effective treatment will allow them to love their babies and to be excellent mothers!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge