Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby. Feelings of postpartum depression are more intense and last longer than those of “baby blues.” The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue that many women experience after having a baby. Babies require a lot of care, so it’s normal for mothers to be worried about, or tired from, providing that care. Baby blues, which affects up to 80 percent of mothers, includes feelings that are somewhat mild, last a week or two, and go away on their own.
With postpartum depression, feelings of sadness and anxiety can be extreme and might interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. And because of the severity of the symptoms, postpartum depression usually requires treatment. The condition, which occurs in nearly 15 percent of births, may begin shortly before or any time after childbirth. However, it commonly begins between a week and a month after delivery.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) research suggests about 1 in 9 women experiences postpartum depression. Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.
After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. And this leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but may also include:
- Crying more often than usual.
- Feelings of anger.
- Withdrawing from loved ones.
- Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
- Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby.
Experiences that may put some women at a higher risk for depression include:
- Low social support.
- Difficulty getting pregnant.
- Being a mom to multiples, like twins, or triplets.
- Losing a baby.
- Being a teen mom.
- Preterm (before 37 weeks) labor and delivery.
- Having a baby with a birth defect or disability.
- Pregnancy and birth complications.
- Having a baby or infant who has been hospitalized.
Depression can also occur among women with a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Depression is treatable, and most people get better with treatment. If you think you may be depressed, the first step to seeking treatment is to talk to your health care provider. Only a health care provider can diagnose a woman with postpartum depression. Because symptoms of this condition are broad and may vary between women, a health care provider can help a woman figure out whether the symptoms she is feeling are due to postpartum depression or something else. A woman who experiences any of these symptoms should see a health care provider right away.
There are effective treatments for postpartum depression. And a woman’s health care provider can help her choose the best treatment, which may include:
- Counseling/Talk Therapy: This treatment involves talking one-on-one with a mental health professional (a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker).
- Medication: Antidepressant medications act on the brain chemicals that are involved in mood regulation. Many antidepressants take a few weeks to be most effective. While these medications are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding, a woman should talk to her health care provider about the risks and benefits to both herself and her baby.
These treatment methods can be used alone or together. And research suggests that a combination of the two is the most effective treatment for alleviating postpartum depression.
Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby. And it may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.
So how can music therapy help?
Music therapy provides opportunities to:
- Explore personal feelings and therapeutic issues such as self-esteem or personal insight
- Make positive changes in mood and emotional states
- Have a sense of control over life through successful experiences
- Enhance awareness of self and environment
- Express oneself both verbally and non-verbally
- Develop coping and relaxation skills
- Support healthy feelings and thoughts
- Improve reality testing and problem solving skills
- Interact socially with others
- Improve concentration and attention span
- Adopt positive forms of behavior
Outcomes for depression that are documented in Music Therapy research:
- Reduced muscle tension
- Improved self-image/Increased self-esteem
- Decreased anxiety/agitation Increased verbalization
- Enhanced interpersonal relationships
- Increased motivation
- Successful and safe emotional release
As always, I’m happy to answer your questions about music therapy and how it might fit into your treatment! Feel free to contact me anytime.