Having a baby is a significant life event that comes with a range of emotions. For many women, bringing home a new baby is a time of joy, excitement, and anxiety, but for others, it could be a distressing and challenging time. Studies show that 70-80% of women struggle with their mood at some point in time after birth. This article will describe the difference between “Baby Blues” and Clinical Postpartum Depression and will include suggestions for seeking help for yourself or someone you love.
Any parent can describe how much life can change once you bring home a new baby. One must adjust to a new role (mother, father, sibling), manage sleep deprivation, and, for a mother who has given birth, physically recover and manage changes in hormones. The “Baby Blues” is a common experience for mothers that can occur within 2 weeks after birth. Symptoms may include fatigue, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and weepiness. With a little good self-care (i.e. sleep, movement, laughter, nourishment), these symptoms can resolve on their own within just hours to days. It is important for women with histories of depression to be aware of this to avoid misinterpretation of the symptoms as something more severe.
Clinical Postpartum Depression often has an onset within the first three months after birth, but may occur anytime during the first year postpartum or even during pregnancy. Symptoms are very similar to those experienced in “Baby Blues”, but are more intense and last longer. Additional symptoms, and those that I have commonly seen in mothers in my practice, include fears of being a bad mother, difficulty bonding with baby, intense anxiety and worry, feelings of shame and guilt, and lack of confidence in, or ability to, making decisions. The symptom of most concern is suicidal or thoughts of harming the baby. If these types of thoughts are present, immediate help is needed.
Unfortunately, many mothers stay quiet when experiencing these symptoms as they believe, “I should be happy”. Many feel ashamed that they are in distress. If you are a new mother relating to the experiences listed above, please know that you are not alone, and support is available. Prognosis is greatly improved when treated earlier. Treatment may include psychotherapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), checking for underlying medical conditions, medication management, and an increase in support/self-care. Alerting your OBGYN and seeking referrals can be a great way to start on the path to recovery and enjoyment of this special time in life.
Dr. Andrea Tesher, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, specializing in the treatment of adults with anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse, difficulties regulating emotions, relationship problems and women's issues. Dr. Tesher received her Bachelor’s degree from The Pennsylvania State University. She completed a Masters Degree in General Psychology at New York University and then received her Doctor of Psychology at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, part of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. Throughout graduate school Dr. Tesher received extensive training in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Psychodynamic Therapy, Couples Counseling, Group Therapy and psychological/neuropsychological testing in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, hospital inpatient units, and college counseling centers. Her experience volunteering in emergency rooms as an advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence guided her research and clinical interests.
Dr. Tesher joined a research team that focused on women’s issues and she specifically studied the impact of trauma on treatment outcome for female inpatients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Her interest in understanding and treating the affects of trauma continued when she completed her pre-doctoral internship at the VA Hudson Valley Healthcare System. There she had the privilege of working closely with veterans of all generations struggling with substance abuse disorders, anxiety, depression, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. After graduating Dr. Tesher began practicing in an outpatient clinic with private and Workers’ Compensation patients. She provided individual cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation training to adults with depression, anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress, head traumas, and chronic pain. Dr. Tesher’s approach to treatment combines many elements of CBT, DBT, and psychodynamic therapies. She works collaboratively with each client to understand how current thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are impacted by past experiences. She focuses on understanding and building on client strengths as well as practicing new skills. She works with each client to determine the most effective techniques for achieving goals. Dr. Tesher believes that a warm, non-judgmental, and safe therapeutic environment is essential for work and change to occur.
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