Postpartum Depression / Postpartum Thyroiditis

Cassandra was thrilled. This was her first pregnancy and everything was going well-both physically and mentally. She was in good shape and hadn’t gained too much weight. Her spirits were sky high, anticipating with pleasure all that the baby would bring.

The delivery went well, no complications and a shorter time than expected. Cassandra looked forward to coming home and spending time with her new baby Carolyn. About three weeks later, all hell broke loose. Cassadra began to feel depressed, lethargic and even had thoughts of suicide. No matter what she tried, she couldn’t shake these negative feelings. Her problems went well beyond the “baby blues,” a short-term mild state of depression.

And, indeed, postpartum depression is much more severe than the baby blues. Typically, the mother is inexplicably sad, has mood swings, weeps for no reason, and displays irritability and fatigue. How do you tell if the sadness you feel is a minor problem or a more severe concern? Answer the questions below, which were developed by the Postpartum Stress Center. The more questions you answer “yes,” the more likely you are to be suffering from postpartum depression. And, the more important it is to seek help. Do you…

Have trouble sleeping?

Find you’re exhausted most of the time?

Notice a decrease in your appetite?

Worry about little things that never used to bother you?

Wonder if you’ll ever have time to yourself again?

Think your children would be better off without you?

Worry that your husband will get tired of you feeling this way?

Snap at your husband and children over everything?

Think everyone else is a better mother than you are?

Cry over the slightest thing?

No longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy?

Isolate yourself from your friends and neighbors?

Fear leaving the house or being alone?

Have anxiety attacks?

Have unexplained anger?

Have difficulty concentrating?

Think something else is wrong with you or your marriage?

Feel like you will always feel this way and never get better?

It is believed that 20 percent of women get postpartum depression, but in different degrees of seriousness. There are several possible reasons. A hereditary predisposition (i.e. family history of depression or anxiety), chronic sleep problems from all-night feedings, major hormonal changes, medical complications in either mother or infant, tendency to have a lower self-esteem, previous postpartum or other clinical depression, absence of support from family and friends, and isolation. Postpartum depression typically occurs one to three months after the birth, but may appear right after or up to one year after the birth of the child.

Most women make a full recovery. However, they could be at risk of recurrent episodes of depression with subsequent pregnancies, at menopause, or during times of high stress. Similar to other types of depression, early identification and treatment are the keys to successful recovery. Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression doesn’t disappear spontaneously.

Treatment for postpartum depression is a combination of anti-depressants and psychotherapy. Breast feeding may be a concern with some medications, but there are alternatives. Electroconvulsive therapy may be used in situations when the depression is resistant to medication. Support groups for postpartum depression are also beneficial. Belonging to a group lets a woman know that she isn’t alone in her experience, and that she will recover.

Regardless of the method of treatment, the first and foremost step to take is getting medical and psychological assistance. Call your OB/GYN or family doctor if you have any depressed thoughts or behavior.

Postpartum thyroiditis

About five to ten percent of women suffer from postpartum thyroiditis where there is a transient hyperthyroid state followed by hypothyroidism. The symptoms may go unnoticed or attributed to other postpartum issues such as breast feeding or recovering hormones. While most postpartum thyroiditis patients regain normal thyroid function, as many as 25 to 30 percent of individuals develop permanent hypothyroidism.

In the overactive stage you may feel hot and tired with a fast pulse together with increased sweating and nervousness. These symptoms are often mild and go unrecognized. The over-activity is always transient and only lasts a few weeks. The under-active symptoms include tiredness, feeling the cold, depression, dry skin and aches and pains. These symptoms are often more severe. The depression is usually mild to moderate. Many of the symptoms are very general such that the doctor may not at first think of thyroid disorder. However postpartum thyroid disease is now being diagnosed more frequently.

Again, be sure to call your doctor whenever you have any symptoms of thyroid problems. When left alone, depression will most likely get worse.