Welcoming a new baby is a joyful experience for most parents. But about 10% to 15% of mothers, and 10% of fathers, develop postpartum depression after the birth of a child. More than just the “baby blues,” postpartum depression can make people feel sad, hopeless, worthless, or guilty, reports the September 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.
Although postpartum depression is surprisingly common, those affected may be embarrassed about feeling depressed and overwhelmed at what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of their lives. As a result, many people are reluctant to seek help. For example, fewer than half of women with postpartum depression seek treatment.
Lack of treatment for postpartum depression takes a toll not only on a parent’s mental health, but also on a child’s development. In some cases, offspring of parents with any kind of untreated depression suffer delays in intellectual and emotional development or develop depression themselves.
Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, notes that multiple treatment options exist for postpartum depression — most often, some combination of psychotherapy and medication. Women who want to breast-feed can take antidepressants, but should start at the lowest dose and use those that are least likely to be passed on to the baby, such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), or nortriptyline (Pamelor).
Read the full-length article: “Beyond the ‘baby blues’”