When the Baby Blues Turn Serious

Postpartum Depression affects at least one in ten new mothers and fathers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having a baby can be an emotional roller-coaster: the incomparable joy at welcoming new life into the world, combined with changing routines, feelings of being overwhelmed, and lack of sleep.

Ten to fifteen percent of new mothers develop postpartum depression after the birth of a child and, perhaps surprisingly, 10 percent of fathers do as well.

"New mothers and fathers should address postpartum depression."

Postpartum depression is more than just the "baby blues" - it is a common, but serious, condition that should be addressed. The September 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter reports that postpartum depression can make new mothers and fathers feel sad, hopeless, anxious, irritable, worthless or guilty.

What's more, often those who suffer from it may be confused or embarrassed; it's supposed to be the happiest time of their lives and feeling depressed may somehow seem wrong. As a result, many people are reluctant to get help. In fact, fewer than half of women with postpartum depression seek treatment.

Dr. Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, outlines several treatment options for postpartum depression. These can include both psychotherapy and antidepressant medication, which can be safely managed even for breastfeeding women at low doses. Some antidepressants are less likely to pass on to the baby, such as Zoloft and Paxil.

It's important to treat postpartum depression, because if left untreated it not only compromises the mental health of the individual but can also cause parents to lose interest in many things, even their babies. Delays in the cognitive development of infants and toddlers are associated with having parents with untreated depression. They take longer to mature emotionally and may be more prone to developing depression themselves.

If severe enough and left untreated, postpartum depression can also develop into postpartum psychosis in rare instances. This is a life-threatening disorder that requires immediate treatment. 

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Review Date: 
October 6, 2011
Last Updated:
October 6, 2011