Postpartum depression is a condition that affects new mothers shortly after giving birth. It can also affect new fathers but is much less common in men. Postpartum depression is increasingly common, and it can affect a woman’s quality of life and make it difficult to care for her baby. While the condition isn’t curable, there are a number of treatments that can help women manage their postpartum depression symptoms.
The Rate of Postpartum Depression in the U.S.
Research shows that about one in seven women will get diagnosed with postpartum depression during their pregnancy, or after giving birth. Certain demographics are at an increased risk, including teen moms, women with a history of trauma, or women who give birth to premature babies. According to one study, roughly 4% of fathers will experience depression in the first year after their child is born.
Surprisingly, the prevalence of postpartum depression varies significantly by state. About 7.4% of new moms living in Iowa get diagnosed with postpartum depression, whereas 22.4% of new mothers in Idaho suffer from depression. However, doctors aren’t exactly sure why postpartum depression varies by location, other than population differences.
Many new mothers also experience the “baby blues,” which is considered to be a mild form of postpartum depression. Data suggests that between 15-85% of women experience the baby blues within the first 10 days after giving birth. The symptoms of the baby blues are similar to postpartum depression, but they usually don’t last longer than a week after delivery.
The Unique Way One State is Dealing With Postpartum Depression
Despite the high rate of postpartum depression in the United States, many women never receive professional treatment. And when you’re caring for a newborn, it can be difficult to prioritize self-care and find time to meet with a therapist. That’s why New York City is expanding access to therapy and postpartum depression screening.
One city health organization is providing first-time parents with as many as six home visits from a mental health professional. Other groups are expanding access to at-home screenings for anxiety and postpartum depression, as well as helping new moms find mental health services in their neighborhood.
The program, which is being spearheaded by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife Chirlaine McCray, is part of a national movement to expand in-home visitation to new parents. Under the program, community health workers or nurses will be sent to visit first-time parents, regardless of their income or sexual orientation. Additionally, parents with adopted kids or babies born via surrogate will also be able to participate in the visitation program.
New York City’s initiative aims to give mothers the tools they need to navigate life as a new parent while improving childhood cognitive function and reducing the rate of abuse. Based on research from the Federal Administration for Children and Families, home visitation programs have been shown to improve positive outcomes in child development, and maternal and child health.
How Spouses Can Help Women With Postpartum Depression
If you’re a spouse or partner of someone who is suffering from postpartum depression, it can be difficult to know how you can help them. Your spouse might be moody, irritable, or generally uninterested in doing anything, which can be frustrating when there’s a new baby to take care of. Parenting takes teamwork, but sometimes picking up the extra slack is the best way you can help someone suffering from depression.
First, know that research shows women who suffer from postpartum depression improve much more quickly when they have support from their partner or another family member. You shouldn’t ignore the situation and hope it goes away on its own. Simply being there for your partner and not making her feel bad during a difficult time can make a world of difference. Some basic things you can do are:
- Help out around the house, like doing the laundry or dishes
- Go to the grocery store, stock the house with healthy food and offer to cook meals
- Go with her to any doctor’s appointments
- Take care of the baby so she can sleep
- Be a good listener
- Control visitation time with friends and family
As a spouse, partner, or family member, anything you can do to make a new mom’s life easier will be appreciated. However, it’s also important to know how you can avoid making the situation worse. Don’t remind her that she has a new baby and it’s supposed to be the most exciting time in her life. You also shouldn’t tell her that her postpartum depression is simply a phase that she’ll snap out of eventually. Lastly, avoid telling her that she would feel better if she did something differently—not working, eating healthier, exercising more, etc.
Many women who suffer from postpartum depression feel judged by the people around them. They feel like there’s something wrong with them because they can’t experience the joys of motherhood like other women. Make it a priority to help her in whatever way that you can, but tread lightly and avoid saying or doing things that could make her feel worse.
TMS Therapy for Postpartum Depression
For many women, postpartum depression subsides about a year after giving birth. But for some, postpartum depression continues for several years after their baby is born. Women who don’t respond well to conventional therapy and medication may consider trying Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy.
TMS therapy uses electromagnetic waves to stimulate parts of the brain that are less active in women with depression. It’s a non-invasive treatment that takes about 18 minutes and does not require anesthesia. TMS is safe for most women who are pregnant and for new mothers who are breastfeeding. However, we recommend speaking with your doctor before pursuing treatment.
If you’re interested in learning more about TMS therapy at Pulse, call us at (310) 846-8460 or send us a message to schedule a free consultation with our psychiatrist.