Postpartum Depression

So many mothers  I have met have suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of at least one of their children.  Some mothers I have met have also suffered from depression during a pregnancy, which is much less talked about than postpartum depression.  This is a huge topic, and one that a blog post really can’t even do justice to, but my goal is to provide some places on the Web and links to  groups that make the support of mothers who are battling depression their main focus.

According to “Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple:  A Guide For Helping Mothers” by Nancy Mohrbacher, “More than half of new mothers have occasional bouts of crying, irritability, and fatigue sometimes referred to as “the baby blues.”  Postpartum depression refers to more consistent and severe symptoms and is also relatively common, with some estimating the incidence within the first year of new motherhood to be 12% to 25% overall and 35% or more among high-risk mothers.”

On a purely physical level, some research states the release of proinflammatory cytokines by the immune system have been found  to be a cause for postpartum depression, but there also appear to be  risk factors that can  predispose mothers toward this inflammation.  These risk factors can include sleep disturbances, stress in the mother’s life, physical pain (nipple pain in particular), psychological trauma or a history of abuse or trauma, a traumatic birth experience.  Breastfeeding can be a protector against depression:

“Breastfeeding lowers stress and increases sleep, which decreases a mother’s risk of depression.  When breastfeeding is going well, it can decrease inflammation and increase a mother’s feelings of well-being.  Overall breastfeeding has been found to protect mothers’ mental health.  Although breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of postpartum depression, breastfeeding is not a guarantee against depression.” – from Nancy Mohrbacher’s book quoted above.

It is  important for those who love mothers suffering from depression to be a listening ear; it is easy for depressed mothers to feel their feelings are so terrible that they cannot hardly share their pain.  To feel as if everyone has it all together and you do not; to feel guilty because you are sad and finding it challenging to enjoy mothering or this new little life is so difficult. 

Here is a more technically-oriented  book I like about depression in mothers by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (well, I liked the first edition, and I am certain this updated second edition must be pretty wonderful.  I have heard the author speak several times at conferences)   Are there any books that you have read regarding depression and mothering that were helpful?  Please do share the titles in the comment  box below.


Round Up Of Links That May Be Helpful:

Despite the link title, LOL,  this is a very good interview with noted health psychologist, researcher and frequent speaker on the subject of depression, Kathleen Kendall Tackett:  There are some points about things to help depression that do not involve medication, and also some talk about depression during pregnancy.

This one was interesting as well from La Leche League:  “A Point/Counterpoint on Post partum Depression”:

If you are looking for information regarding prescribed medications, here is a really good article from the Texas Tech Infant Risk Center regarding antidepressant use in pregnancy and post-partum:

From The Office of Women’s Health regarding depression during pregnancy and postpartum:

Here is one mother’s story about living with post partum depression:

Here is Kellymom’s Postpartum Adjustment Resource Guide, which has links to many centers of help:

To find a support group near you:

If you have any helpful links or resources, or feel comfortable sharing your own experiences, please do so in the comment box below.

Many blessings,

20 thoughts on “Postpartum Depression

  1. I’d personally love to know if there is anyone out there who felt like they suffered PPD after the first year their child was born. And, subsequently if there are any resources for that time frame.

    I would swear I did and I am coming out of it (hopefully!) with my 3rd – but it didn’t hit until she was 12-13 months old. Totally didn’t feel “myself”, cried at least once a day for no good reason…just to list a few. If one more person told me “oh, it’s just because you have THREE” I may have screamed. 😉

    PS – new to this site, and just LOVE it.

  2. The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression, by Tracy Thompson- a worthwhile read from a journalist who has vast personal experience with depression and parents a child with mental health issues. Includes personal reflections, scientific research, and many mothers’ stories from a survey.

    I am a Waldorf inspired homeschooling mother of 2 who lives with anxiety and depression, and I deeply appreciate the efforts you make, Carrie, to address difficult topics. Rhythm, being outdoors as much as possible in a northern climate, and limiting our external commitments are what continue to make it both possible and wonderful for my family to homeschool.

  3. No aimed at mothers and postpartum depression specifically, but I really found the book “The Mood Cure” very useful and informative in terms of what supplements and nutrition I should take to overcome PPD.

    • I too would recommend this book. It is a wonderful resource for a variety of mental health issues and I believe it literally saved my life. It gives you the tools and knowledge to take control of your own mental health, without the use of medication.

    • Twinbliss,
      Thank you for your experience with that book! Very high praise indeed!
      Many, many blessings to you,

  4. I am glad that someone out there is telling the truth: “Breastfeeding is not a guarantee against depression.” Time and time I see those in the pro-nursing camp offer up lactation as a panacea against post-partum depression. It’s like they just don’t get it. They don’t seem to understand the suffering women with PPD and their families are coping with. Or the choices they must make.

    While breastfeeding probably does help with the baby blues, the hormones released are often not enough to combat severe PPD. Yes, a woman can take a mild anti-depressant like Zoloft. But many women need much stronger drugs. Women with pre-existing mood disorders, for example, are at a much higher risk for a severe episode of PPD.

    Often times the drugs that are prescribed are not compatible with breastfeeding, or haven’t been proven to be safe or unsafe. Do you really want to take lithium and breastfeed? What about Seroquel?

    The choice many women with PPD face is this: Continue to breastfeed even though they are not emotionally stable and cannot function well enough to properly care for their babies and themselves. Take medication while continuing to nurse, even though the medications are excreted into breast milk. Take the meds they need to function and be emotionally stable and place their babies on formula.

    I tried nursing on less medication than normal but it made my baby too sleepy to wake up and nurse. So, I switched him to formula and started back on my old medication regiment. The first time I bottle fed my son after taking my medication it felt like a weight had been lifted. I actually enjoyed being a mom for the first time.

    I’ve said this before and I will say it again: My baby needed me to be a mom, more than he needed my breast.
    He’s a happy, thriving two year old who is as smart as a whip, loving, and very well attached.

    I think I made the best choice for me, my son, and our family. And I applaud any woman who makes the best decision, whatever that is, for herself and her children.

    • Sara Savel – YES! Being a whole mother is most important. This is akin to my post some time ago about when breastfeeding doesn’t work out, and essentially what I said then. Thank you so much for sharing your personal perspective and story, it is one that is so valuable for other mothers to hear.
      Many sweet blessings,

    • I so agree with you Sara!
      It is such a hard decision to give up breastfeeding for mothers, I agonized for weeks/ months on end, but had no choice. If mothers have to give up breastfeeding it is not a decision made on a whimsy.

  5. @Jen – Yes, PPD can occur up to 2 yrs after the birth of a child. I think I read this in one of Kathleen Kendall-Tackett’s books. Her books are really helpful.

    @Sara Savel – I hear you! I began parenting as a lactivist. After having 2 children and experiencing PPD after each birth, I became a little more open-minded about breastfeeding. Just because breastfeeding was one thing that got me through PPD doesn’t mean it’s a panacea for every other mom out there. After the birth of my second child, my PPD got worse and led to more severe mental health issues. I am doing much better now, but it wasn’t without much love and support from my family and a lot of hard work on my part. I do feel like it’s a great idea to work towards normalizing breastfeeding but this work can be done without making mothers feel guilty about their choices. Personally, I enjoyed breastfeeding most of the time but there were times when I wondered if breastfeeding actually caused me more anxiety. You are absolulte right in saying that a child needs a healthy mother more than the breast…

  6. After my second child started to refuse the breast at five months I definitely fell into PPD, first I could not name what it was, but as our current circumstances here preset the stage and after my problems and anxieties regarding breastfeeding, it was certain. I am slowly recovering now, but unfortunately with bad side effects, ….no, I did not turn to medications, as I have had a bad experience with things like that, but now after 17 years I started smoking again last October…., I obviously do not smoke near my children or in the house/car, but I have trouble to quite now. So I went from one slump to another. My family is obviously pretty upset, as am I, but quitting is easier said than done. Well, I have to take one hurdle at a time.
    I am not sure if I would put it down to not being able to breastfeed only but it was part of the reason why I fell into PPD.

  7. I feel like I could write a book on this. I had a difficult labor/delivery and early postpartum, and breastfeeding problems after the birth of my first child. All a set up for PPD. But, in truth, I feel like the biggest factor was that I had no support. My husband kept whisking the baby away from me in the guise of his own bonding and “helping” me so that I could do housework and cooking. Similarly, in the months following my child’s birth, a couple friends and one family member came to stay and “help” after the baby was born. However, they wanted baby time also. Despite the bodies in the house, no one but me ever did a load of laundry or cooked a meal or swept a floor. I was so hungry for my baby, and he was in others’ arms. I kept telling my husband that taking care of the baby didn’t help me ~ I didn’t need help taking care of the baby, I needed someone to wash a load of clothes. My husband just got angry because I refused to get out and go to mother/baby groups or plant the veggie garden (my child was 4 months old). I tried to explain that I didn’t need groups, I needed my baby. . .
    There was a great article about PPD in Mothering magazine the Fall of 2010 that spoke precisely to this point, and I was so sorry that it arrived after the worst of my PPD as it would have been very helpful if I could have just handed to the people around me. We don’t live in a culture that supports and affirms moms and attachment, and in the midst of PPD, one loses confidence in themselves, Outside affirmation and reassurance can go a long way in helping a mother to find her feet and trust herself despite the emotional roller coaster. I completely agree with your comment regarding the need for a listening ear. You described very well exactly how I felt.
    These links are useful. The irony is that when you are in the midst of a PPD, you are completely unable to to muster up your formally resourceful self and find help and information, and neither my midwife nor M.D. offered any suggestion beyond drugs. I’m a nutritionist so knew about nutrients and herbs, etc., but nothing worked. Finally, I contacted an old friend who is a midwife and homeopath, and she evaluated me and sent a homeopathic remedy. It was a lifesaver. The PPD lifted, and I was able to begin repairing my relationship with my baby. I strongly encourage any woman with PPD to get in touch with a homeopath ASAP.

    • Eliza,
      Thank you for sharing your story! I so strongly agree with you, and have written two blog posts about the forty days after birth to encourage mothers to stand up for their need to be with their baby and let others do the other things (but not take care of the baby!) Thank you again for sharing and for reading; you are right, when you are in the midst of PPD it can be so hard to muster up any strength for treatment for yourself and really the role we haven’t touched on is that of the spouse or concerned family member…perhaps that is another post..
      Many blessings, thank you for reading,

  8. I had * undiagnosed* depression after my second child was born..
    The depressed feelings started when i was pregnant 😦
    I breastfed 2nd baby for 2 and a bit years. I drank every herbal concoction to get me through my days, I lived in the shadow of my Sis in law as she had more ‘reason’ to be depressed and she opted for strong drugs.. Aww I longed for some! Hah.
    My 2nd is nearly 3 now and I have JUST had a few osteopathic treatments after I kept having bad pains in my neck… Turns out my sacram was completely turned to the right, which messed with my neck AND had caused so much tighhtness in my head/ causing many crazy *mental* moments .. Apparently all to do with birthing babies and attributed greatly to my depression .. If only I’d had osteo treatments earlier.. If only ALL women had treatment weeks/months after birth 😦

  9. What’s the difference between regular depression and post-partum (besides obviously that PPD is after you have a baby)? I’ve suffered from depression since my early teens, never used medication as treatment, and never considered myself “cured” but consider the good times to be times when my depression is in “remission” kinda like cancer. Anyway, I just had a baby boy a little over a month ago, and I’m definately experiecing more than “the baby blues.” I already plan to talk to my doctor about this at my appointment next tuesday, but I want to know–how would I know (or the doctor know) whether it’s PostPartum Depression or my regular depression back? What’s the real difference?

    Thank you.

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