- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2000

A mixture of hormones and stress accompany the birth of a baby, causing nearly 80 percent of women to suffer from the "baby blues," according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
It is important to be able to recognize what are typical "blues" and what is the more serious condition of postpartum depression so a new mom can get the kind of help she needs, says Dr. Valerie Davis Raskin, a psychiatrist and co-author of "This Wasn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression."
"The baby blues will get better if you take a nap," Dr. Raskin says. "Postpartum depression doesn't."
With the blues, which typically show up within a few days of delivery and resolve within about two weeks, women may cry for no reason or have trouble sleeping, eating or making choices, Dr. Raskin says. They also may question whether they can handle caring for the baby, a doubt that persists in postpartum depression.
Those same symptoms may appear with postpartum depression, but they go on longer, and there are other troubling symptoms:
Strong feelings of depression and anger that show up one to two months after childbirth rather than within a few days.
Feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt, anxiety or helplessness that seem to increase each week and get in the way of normal functioning.
Radical changes in sleep habits.
Karen Peterson, a Potomac mother of three, says she woke up as many as 10 times per night when she had postpartum depression following the birth of her second child three years ago. (She had no symptoms when her third child was born earlier this year.)
Says Dr. Raskin: "If you can't sleep when the baby sleeps, then something is wrong. Many new mothers feel tired all the time but have no trouble going to sleep. Postpartum depression is a weird combination of insomnia and exhaustion."
Not being able to care for oneself or the baby.
Trouble doing tasks at home or on the job because of low concentration.
"It became hard to get out of the house," says Mrs. Peterson, 39. "It was hard to do things, see people."
Changes in appetite.
Lack of joy in things that used to bring pleasure.
"Women I see with postpartum depression complain of never feeling joyful," Dr. Raskin says. "They sense they are inadequate as a mother. This is not a little feeling; it is a deep feeling."
Thoughts of suicide.
Both Mrs. Peterson and Susan Kushner Resnick, a Massachusetts woman who struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child, say they had thoughts of ending their lives.
Mrs. Peterson now serves as a counselor for women with postpartum depression. She says many women avoid asking for help because they see that as admitting they cannot cope as a mother.
"Many moms think, 'It is just the baby blues, and it will sort itself out,' " she says. "It is so hard to tell anyone you are depressed, but I urge women to err on the side of caution."

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