Just the Baby Blues or Something More? Signs of Postpartum Depression

postpartumThis is Part 3 in our New Mom series. Click here for Part 2, “4 Steps to a Healthier Post-Baby Body” and click here for Part 1, “How to establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship”.

Feeling tired and emotional after having a baby is normal for women to experience. You’re happy, but tears fall anyway. You’re tired. And you’re wondering how you’ll measure up as a mom. In most cases, these thoughts are normal and can be considered the baby blues — if they fade away after a couple days.

But when those feelings evolve to those of hopelessness and irritability and begin to affect your eating and sleeping habits for two weeks or more, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression affects between 10 percent and 15 percent of women and involves a “cluster of symptoms,” said Ruta Kulys, a licensed psychotherapist for more than 20 years who serves clients at Memorial Counseling Associates in Springfield, including those suffering from postpartum depression.

“It’s really hard for women to know what is a normal part of being a new mom and what’s depression,” Kulys said. “You’re exhausted, irritable, overwhelmed, dealing with all the adjustments that come with a newborn.  Sometimes that’s a pretty rude awakening for women – feeling like your life isn’t your own anymore.”

Some of the key markers of postpartum depression include:

  • the inability to sleep (versus not having the time to sleep, which is common for new parents);
  • a change in appetite, energy level, mood and/or concentration;
  • lasting sadness or irritability, helplessness and negative thoughts about your role as a mother.

If any of these symptoms last longer than two weeks, it’s time to seek help.

Signs of postpartum depression can occur anytime in the first year following birth, not just within those first few weeks, though that is a common time for it to arise. Kulys said she notices women also may experience depression when they stop breastfeeding or at the onset of their first postnatal menstrual period, both of which involve a flux in hormone levels. Women who have experienced depression before or during pregnancy are more susceptible to postpartum depression, as are women with a family history of depression.

Kulys said women can use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale self-assessment tool to gauge how they are feeling and whether they are experiencing postpartum depression depression. Oftentimes, women who do suffer from postpartum depression experience best results with a combination of psychotherapy with a licensed counselor like Kulys and medication.

“The good news is, this is very treatable,” Kulys said. “Women get better and then they can enjoy being mothers. It takes a lot to be a new mom; you need your internal resilience.”


To talk with a counselor, call Memorial Counseling Associates at 788-4065.

Kulys also recommends the book “This Isn’t What I Expected,” by Valerie Raskin and Karen Kleiman.

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