Becoming a mother is a joyful, incredible experience. However, for some mothers, the early days of motherhood are anything but blissful. Between 50 and 80% of all women have several days of "baby blues" during the first couple of weeks postpartum. Nevertheless, for at least 10% of those mothers, the "blues" become something much darker: a full-fledged deep, black hole of postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding May Help
Some research does indicate that when a mother breastfeeds her infant, the hormones oxytocin and prolactin provide a decreased neuroendocrine response to stressors. In other words, little things don't produce as much stress reaction. Furthermore, the higher levels of prolactin produced by breastfeeding also serve to enhance a mother's sense of well-being. Therefore, in addition to the many other benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers may also have a decreased incidence of severe postpartum depression.
Nursing Mothers Do Get Depressed
Nevertheless, breastfeeding mothers can and do become clinically depressed. Suzie was overjoyed at the birth of Adam. But she had a very hard time breastfeeding. Adam didn't latch on well, and Suzie grew increasingly frustrated and despondent. Soon she quit breastfeeding altogether and entered into a six-month long struggle with depression. Slowly she began to pull out of it, but she continued to struggle for several more months. Suzie missed many of the delightful firsts that thrill most mothers because she was dealing with a problem that was more than just psychological. In fact, postpartum depression has a physiological basis.
Suzie shouldn't have had to deal with six months of misery. Mothers who face
The Medication Solution
Many drugs are available to treat depression. Some doctors, however, still tell breastfeeding mothers that they can't continue to breastfeed when they take certain types of medication. A common class of drugs known as SSRIs are frequently used to treat depression. Dr. Thomas Hale, Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, has found that Zoloft is an ideal choice for breastfeeding mothers. Another good option in Paxil. Prozac is a less favored option for the nursing mother.
The Psychotherapy Solution
Interpersonal psychotherapy can be another solution for major depression. A 2004 study showed that interpersonal psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for postpartum depression. The decision to follow this course of treatment needs to be made in careful collaboration with the mother's health care provider. Close follow-up is critical to insure that the she is making progress.
When a new mother can't stop crying or finds herself sinking deeper and deeper into despair, she needs to talk with her Ob/Gyn, family practitioner or nurse midwife immediately. If her six-week check up is still several weeks away, she needs to make an appointment as soon as possible. Untreated depression can have serious consequences for both mother and baby. No mother should have to suffer the devastating effects of postpartum depression.