What is PPD?
The last thing you want to think about during pregnancy is the possibility that after nine months of anticipation, you'll be too unhappy to enjoy your baby. Yet the truth is that 80 percent of new mothers have severe mood swings, known as baby blues, and 10 percent suffer major postpartum depression (PPD) in the first year.
Traditionally, doctors have blamed PPD on the dramatic drop in hormones that occurs after delivery. But chemistry can't explain everything; otherwise, all new mothers would plummet into depression. According to the latest research, women who suffer from PPD show clear warning signs during pregnancy; many have risk factors, such as a history of depression. "Doctors can detect the most vulnerable women early and prevent the illness before it strikes," says lead researcher Zachary Stowe, M.D., director of the Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Disorders Program at Emory University, in Atlanta.
"The women with PPD in our study all had symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy," says Dr. Stowe. However, doctors usually ignore these signs. "If a pregnant woman cries frequently, has trouble sleeping, and can't concentrate, everyone assumes that's typical," he adds.
In addition to talking to your doctor about any symptoms of distress that you're experiencing now, the best way to prevent PPD is to have realistic expectations. All new moms must adjust to having less control over their day-to-day lives, but some women find this overwhelming, which leads to anxiety and depression. Some ups and downs are inevitable, but the way you prepare for parenthood now can safeguard your well-being after the baby is born.