The largest study to date shows that as many as 1 in every 7 women suffers postpartum depression. And the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, finds that among women followed for a year after delivery, some 22 percent had been depressed.
"We asked them whether they had been able to laugh and see the funny side of things," says University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist Dorothy Sit, who was one of the study investigators. Sit says researchers also asked about the new mothers' "ability to look forward with enjoyment to things, whether or not they're blaming themselves necessarily when things go wrong, feeling anxious or worried for no good reason, being scared or panicky for no good reason."
... in Sit's study, home visits for further evaluation revealed that in many cases, the symptoms were very serious.
"We discovered 20 percent had suicidal thoughts — these are thoughts of death, thoughts of wanting to die, not wanting to wake up, just escape," Sit says. "In fact, some patients with very severe symptoms had made the decision to take their lives."
It's unknown exactly why certain women are more vulnerable to postpartum depression. Genetics likely play a role. So do hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, as well as the sleep deprivation that typically occurs in caring for a newborn.
"Once they have the baby, before they leave the hospital, I often say, 'It's normal to have ups and downs and crying out of the blue," Starck says. "But if you feel like you can't sleep ... or if you feel like you're in a deep dark hole and you don't see a light at the end of the tunnel, you may, in fact, be somebody who needs to go on medication or have some counseling."
She adds that screening is critical because, once diagnosed, treatments are highly effective. She says that individual or group therapy and even medications like antidepressants can help the vast majority of women within a few months or a year.
But because many women are too embarrassed or guilt-ridden to admit they feel bad, they don't get diagnosed or treated. [emphasis mine]
On the latest episode of Monday Mornings, they mentioned that eating the placenta can help post partum depression. I'd never before heard of that.