By Dr. Maria DiMegli
In your arms is the most precious, beautiful bundle of joy you could ever have imagined. You know your heart should be filled with loving warmth, jubilee, and sheer wonder at the little miracle in front of you; BUT, instead, you’re a wreck! You haven’t slept in weeks and you’ve lost your brain and a few other things you can’t remember at the moment. The deep, dark bags under your eyes are reminiscent of the Bride of Frankenstein. You’re completely overwhelmed and leaking from every orifice in your body, especially your eyes…uncontrollable tears are streaming down your face.
Postpartum depression is a very real and all too often overlooked condition that can affect up to 25 percent of new moms. It can range in severity from a mild case of the “baby blues” to the rare, and often tragic, psychotic break, and can impact the whole family. Chronic sleep deprivation coupled with huge hormonal shifts take their toll on even the strongest individuals, let alone someone who may already be prone to depression.
What’s amazing to me is that so many of my patients who are typically very open about their feelings will clam up when it comes to this topic. All you need to do is ask for some HELP! Should be simple, right? You can’t lift a heavy box, so you ask for a hand. No big deal. Somehow, women are reluctant to admit they need help during this stage of new motherhood as though it’s some indication of failure.
“It takes a village to raise a child” is not just some old expression, it’s a pearl of supreme wisdom. Having adequate support at home makes a world of difference. Make sure to arrange a four hour block of uninterrupted sleep a day – sleep deprivation and depression are a bad combination.
Talk to your moms, your sisters, your girlfriends, and share your experiences. It will be comforting to discover that others have gone through similar trials and tribulations. Most importantly, don’t forget to discuss your feelings with your doctor at one of your postpartum visits. Many patients will benefit from professional counseling, medication, and/or other treatments and he or she can recognize the warning signs for those who need more than just a little help from their friends.
Dr. Maria DiMeglio is a Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist with a private practice in Beverly Hills. She live in Los Angeles with her husband and four children.