(PPD) Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding

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What is Postpartum Depression?

Even under ideal circumstances, giving birth to and looking after a new life is challenging. Some tears and emotional days are normal following the birth of a new baby, but when you find yourself feeling depressed for days at a time, you need to talk to your doctor or midwife. Sometimes all you may need is a shoulder to cry on, a hearing ear or a few hours alone.  

80% of mothers go through some anxiety and depression after pregnancy. Most mothers don’t realize that they are depressed. Mothers that do not breastfeed, or who are separated from their babies after birth are usually at a higher risk of developing post partum blues. 

The "baby blues" is a very common part of childbirth and generally only lasts a few weeks, only some mothers (about 10%) may become heavily depressed and will need to seek professional help.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Depression symptoms 

Ask yourself the following questions, if you think you might have postpartum depression:

  • Am I happy, as happy as what I was before I gave birth?
  • Do I feel like life is passing me by, and that things are unreal?
  • Do I feel like it’s an effort to do anything I usually have to do like clean up, bath baby etc.
  • Do I look forward to anything anymore?
  • Have I been very emotional lately (mood swings )?
  • Do I feel like I’m detached from my baby?
  • Do I find it difficult being intimate with my partner? Read more about breastfeeding and sex drive here.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Feeling tearful
  • Uncertain
  • Forgetful
  • Restless or irritable
  • Having regular nightmares
  • Struggling to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Negative feelings towards your baby
  • Excessive weight gain or loss
  • Persistent digestive issues, pain or headaches. 

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Depression Treatment

    The entire family is affected when a mother is feeling depressed, even her baby.
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep daily.

Taking Medication for Depression

Most antidepressants are compatible with breastfeeding. Great resources for checking whether certain meds are safe and alternative treatments for depression:

  • Hale's medication and mother milk
  • Non-pharmacological treatments for depression in new mothers by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. 

D-MER Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex

This is when a mother experiences feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and worse feelings when her milk is released (during a let-down reflex). After the reflex or after breastfeeding, the bad feelings go away and the mother is happy again. Read more about D_MER here. 

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Can Breastfeeding Help Prevent Baby-blues / Depression?

    It has been proven that depression is lower in mothers who breastfeed, compared to their non-breastfeeding counterparts. Abrupt weaning can cause a mothers hormone levels to change, which can cause the depression.
    Oxytocin, which is one of the hormones that is released while breastfeeding is a powerful antidepressant. Many mothers who are experiencing post partum blues, have been advised to stop breastfeeding and this may result in increased PPD symptoms. 

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

  • The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone after delivery.
  • Having a family history of depression or mental health issues.
  • No support system and therefore feeling overwhelmed by everything.
  • Breastfeeding problems may cause feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.
  • Sleep deprivation causes irritability.
  • The persistent noise or crying of a new baby.
  • A mother's changed body image. Read more about breastfeeding and postpartum weight loss here.

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Postpartum depression support international.

Breastfeeding Cuts Depression Risk By Half

The breastfeeding experience has been known to assist in the healing of an abusive past, a difficult birth or other emotional wounds. Nursing and skin to skin contact, from birth can decrease the high risk of depression in society. 

Other pages on “breastfeeding problems" related to this page

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