2005-09-23 / Health & Wellness

Giving birth can create chemical imbalance in new mom

The birth of a baby is supposed to be a joyous and exciting time in a mother’s life. But for many women, it is the exact opposite. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 70 to 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” after childbirth and about 10 percent of women develop postpartum depression (PPD), a serious medical condition that develops during the first months after childbirth.

To help address this health issue, National Depression Screening Day, an annual program that offers free to the public anonymous screenings for mental health disorders, is incorporating screening for postpartum depression into this year’s event on Thurs., Oct. 6.

“Many women go through a period of feeling sad, anxious, or irritable after the birth of a baby. This is often referred to as the ‘baby blues.’ However, if these symptoms last longer than two weeks, it could be an indication of a far more serious postpartum mood disorder such as postpartum depression. By incorporating screening for PPD into National Depression Screening Day, we hope to educate both clinicians and the public about the differences between the baby blues and serious mood disorders,” said Douglas G. Jacobs, MD, executive director of National Depression Screening Day and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

“Feeling sad after delivering a healthy baby doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a mother,” said Paul A. Gluck, MD, chair of the Florida Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “New moms need to know that postpartum depression is not a character flaw but is actually a chemical imbalance. PPD is a real illness that responds well to treatment.”

Those who are concerned that they or a loved one may be suffering from postpartum depression can attend a free, a n o n y m o u s screening at one of the more than 2,500 sites across the country participating in National Depression Screening Day on Oct. 6. As part of the program, attendees will have the opportunity to take a brief, written screening and talk to a health professional about their results. Those who score positive will be referred to local treatment resources.

National Depression Screening Day, now in its 15th year, is a program of the nonprofit Screening for Mental Health. The free program provides a nonthreatening way for the public to be screened for depression and related illnesses such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and postpartum depression. To find a local screening site, visit www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

Return to top