Postpartum depression basics: Expert answers to your 8 most-asked questions

5. Is there a common thread among postpartum sufferers?

PPD does not appear to relate to the mother's age or number of children, nor has it been associated with socioeconomic class or education level. However, feelings of isolation are very common among women with PPD. In most cases, a major factor in PPD is the lack of ongoing support from partners, family members, doctors, and friends. Having a good, reliable network to depend on and to help provide care for the newborn is not only comforting but helps the well-being of new mothers.

6. What is the most appropriate treatment for PPD?

PPD can be successfully treated with medications, therapy, or a combination of both. Counseling may be all that is needed for women with mild symptoms. Special consideration must be given to breast-feeding women, but a number of antidepressants can safely be used by mothers who choose to continue nursing.

7. What role can physicians play in recognizing postpartum depression?

A strategy for physicians in diagnosing and treating PPD is to identify women at risk during pregnancy and immediately following delivery. Patients identified as having suffered prior episodes of depression, having poor support, or who have other risks for PPD need careful postpartum follow-up. Most often, new mothers are embarrassed about feeling unhappy during a time when society expects them to be elated. One of the best ways for physicians to recognize the symptoms of depression early on is to simply ask their patients specifically about their mood and adjustment to motherhood. Physicians may find it useful to use a simple depression screening scale, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, to identify patients suspected of having significant depression.

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