If you have signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, call your doctor. Don't let shame or anxiety stop you. Postpartum depression is common, and your doctor knows it's not your fault. To protect your health and the health of your baby, the condition needs to be treated as soon as possible.
After your first appointment, your doctor may refer you to a mental health provider who can create the right treatment plan for you.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing and for how long.
- Write down all of your medical issues, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Tell your doctor if you've been diagnosed with any type of depression or other mental health disorder in the past.
- Make a list of all the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.
- Find a trusted family member or friend to join you for your appointment to help you remember all of the information discussed.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask a doctor who sees you for possible postpartum depression include:
- What is my diagnosis?
- What treatments are likely to help in my case?
- What are the possible side effects of the treatments you're proposing?
- How much and how soon do you expect my symptoms to improve with treatment?
- Is the medication you're prescribing safe to take while breast-feeding?
- How long will I need to be treated?
- What lifestyle changes can help me manage my symptoms?
- How often should I be seen for follow-up visits?
- Am I at increased risk of other mental health problems?
- Am I at risk of this condition recurring if I have another baby?
- Is there any way to prevent a recurrence if I have another baby?
- Are there any printed materials that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask for more information at any time if you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
A doctor or mental health provider who sees you for possible postpartum depression may ask:
- What are your symptoms, and when did they first start?
- Have your symptoms been getting better or worse over time?
- Are your symptoms affecting your ability to care for your baby?
- Do you feel as bonded to your baby as you expected?
- Are you able to sleep when you have the chance and get out of bed when it's time to wake up?
- How would you describe your energy level?
- Has your appetite changed?
- How often would you say you feel anxious, irritable or angry?
- Have you had any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby?
- How much support do you have in caring for your baby?
- How much stress are you otherwise under, such as financial or relationship problems?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions, including mental illnesses such as depression or bipolar disorder?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If so, what type of therapy helped the most?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment with your doctor, try to open up to the people close to you and let them know you need help. If someone offers to baby-sit so that you can take a break, take them up on it. If you can sleep, take a nap. Catch a movie or meet for coffee with friends. Breaking the isolation may help you feel human again.
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately give your baby to your partner or another loved one and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number.
Sep. 11, 2012
- Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet. National Institutes of Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.cfm. Accessed Aug. 1, 2012.
- Pearstein T, et al. Postpartum depression. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2009;200:357.
- Lusskin SI, et al. Postpartum blues and depression. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Aug. 2, 2012.
- Gabbe SG, et al. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-4/0/1528/0.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2012.
- Depression. National Institutes of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/complete-index.shtml. Accessed Aug. 6, 2012.
- Major depressive episode. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Aug. 6, 2012.
- Hirst KP, et al. Postpartum major depression. American Family Physician. 2010;82:926.
- Postpartum depression. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq091.ashx. Accessed Aug. 7, 2012.
- Harms RW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 22, 2012.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 27, 2012.
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