by Jane Wolkowicz

 Perinatal depression affects one in eight women. Learn to recognize the warning signs before it’s too late.

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When Joanna Goddard returned home two years ago after spending an idyllic Christmas vacation with her husband and then 8-month-old son, something felt off. She was suddenly anxious and exhausted but had trouble sleeping at night. “I’d always had baby fever,” she says, “but now that I had a sweet, curious, beautiful baby, I suddenly couldn’t handle motherhood.”

The successful New York City blogger and freelance writer, who posts daily on A Cup of Jo, says the two months that followed were some of the worst of her life. She found it increasingly difficult and overwhelming to care for her son, even though she had been so excited to have a baby just a few months before. Some days, the thought of leaving her apartment was exhausting.

Goddard found out later that she was suffering from perinatal depression, an unfortunately common condition that affects one in eight women, putting them at risk of harming themselves and/or their babies. In this case, Goddard had recently decided to wean her son, Toby, and the hormonal flux that was occurring postbreastfeeding was contributing to her mood swings. Luckily, her body regulated itself, and she was eventually able to fully resume her life as a career go-getter and mother, welcoming her second son, Anton, earlier this year.

Like Goddard, many women experience similar ups and downs, but at different times. Given the immense changes the body goes through before, during and after pregnancy, it’s no surprise most women feel anxious, exhausted and vulnerable, crying at the smallest and silliest of things.

But showing extreme signs of sadness or anxiety for a prolonged period of time is no joke. Fortunately, perinatal depression is treatable, says Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, director of the perinatal psychiatry program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Women’s Mood Disorders.

Meltzer-Brody has done research on the transitional release of hormones that occurs before and after breastfeeding and can contribute to mood disorders. And she says that education is a woman’s best defense against depression.

That’s because learning to recognize what changes are happening at different landmarks along your road to motherhood can not only prepare you for what to expect, but also allow you to recognize triggers that might indicate if you need to seek professional help outside of your established support group.

Here’s a look at what’s happening along the prenatal, postpartum and postbreastfeeding timeline, some of the common symptoms of depression, and where to turn for help if you think you might be depressed.

Read the entire article here.

Source: Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine