If depression persists and has a negative impact on your appetite and your ability to sleep, or if it leads to feelings of apathy, hopelessness, suicidal urges, or urges to harm your baby, get professional help immediately! Such profound and lasting depression not only represents a threat to you, but will also adversely affect your relationship with your baby and may interfere with his development.
If you're one of those parents who feel great and welcome the new joys and responsibilities that your baby has brought, that's terrific. After all, you've brought a new life into the world and caring for him can be both challenging and exhilarating. But if you feel terrible as a new parent, you're not alone. As many as one out of four new mothers suffer from postpartum depression that persists for several months after the birth of their baby. In addition, at least half go through a brief period of depression immediately after delivery, but this depression generally lasts only a week or so.
Because depression may be linked to the postpartum drop in hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone), your doctor may attempt to treat your depression medically by controlling the drop in hormone levels. This process involves getting shots to replace the hormones that drop so rapidly after delivery and then titrating (gradually decreasing) the dosage over several weeks.
However, despite common belief, postpartum depression is not all due to hormones. New parents often have plenty of good reasons to be depressed. Becoming a new parent puts a tremendous physical and emotional strain on you. If you're feeling depressed, try dealing with some of these factors:
Don't hang around the house all day. Despite your baby's company, keeping yourself housebound only increases your sense of isolation. Especially during the first year, your baby is extremely portable. Go on a long walk, visit a museum, visit with friends, or go shopping. In short, do anything you can to get out and about.
Guard against letting the baby blues drag you too far down. Seek help if you need it-from your partner, your family, your friends, or professionals. Do it for your baby as well as for yourself. After all, he needs you to take care of yourself-so that you can take care of him.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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