(I think I missed posting last Monday. I apologize for that. I was so focused on getting ready for my surgery on Tuesday that I must have simply forgotten. This post was first published on Jan. 11, 2013, and it is the final post specifically about causes of depression.)
Friday came awfully fast this week! It was my first week back to work since I took my sabbatical starting just before Thanksgiving. The days have gone well, and very quickly. I’d say I’m about 80% better right now, which is a lot of improvement. Rest, medication, and straight thinking are all doing their work.
Today I want to mention several things that can trigger or contribute to depression. Most of this information is already flooding the internet, so I’m not going to write anything you can find elsewhere. I just want to bring these things to your attention, and if they are applicable to you or someone else in your life, then that’s all for the good.
Here is a reliable website that will give you lots of good information:
Some important things to be aware of with postpartum depression:
1. It can occur immediately after the birth or up to six months or more after the birth. Some women think it started for them even before the baby had come.
2. It’s not your fault. Pregnancy does a complete upset of hormones and chemicals in a woman’s body, including her brain. Somewhere, I don’t remember where now, I read that during pregnancy a woman’s brain shrinks by about 10% of its normal volume. It goes back to normal after the birth; when that fails to happen, there is almost certainly going to be postpartum depression. Modern imaging techniques have shown this change clearly. Maybe it’s the explanation for what women refer to as “pregnant brain.”
3. There is a difference between postpartum depression and postpartum psychoses. The latter is far more serious, and can result in bizarre behaviors that can harm the baby, the other children, and the mother herself. Tragedy such as the Andrea Yeager case is rare, but it does happen. If the mother had mental health diagnoses prior to pregnancy and childbirth, she and her husband and/or family need to make sure she follows up with appropriate medical treatment.
4. What about the dangers of psychopharmacologic drugs for a baby who is nursing? That absolutely needs to be considered. If the depression is mild, I would suggest that the mother stay in talk therapy and try to develop a safety net of friends and family to give her the time she needs to recover without medication. This, of course, is the ideal.
Not everyone, however, has the ideal situation. Sometimes the risk to the baby of the mother taking antidepressants has to be measured against the danger of a deeply depressed new mom hurting her child. That is something that needs to be discussed with a knowledgeable medical person.
It is vitally important that a new mother get the rest she needs as her body slowly returns to normal. I can hear all you new moms out there laughing hysterically at that statement, especially if you have other young children. I’ve been there. I had four, all about two years apart. I’m not speaking just from academic knowledge here, but from personal experience. My mom and mother-in-law both lived long distances away; I had no sisters, aunts, or relatives to help us out. Thank God, we did have a wonderful church family, and precious friends that I could count on. One of my friends had children about the same age as mine, and we used to trade babysitting 1/2 day each week, just to give each other time away from the demands of a very young family.
There are resources out there. If you are truly cut off from such sources of help as I’m describing, then speak with your ob/gyn or family doctor and see what kinds of help are available in the community. Most hospitals sponsor some type of program for new moms, especially single moms.
5. In my opinion, spiritual help is the best help during postpartum depression. A close relationship with God will give any new mom a safe retreat and a source of encouragement. Regular Bible-reading is vital. I give my clients what I call my Scripture Doses. It is a collection of my favorite “hope and peace” passages. I ask them to use the list any way that works best for them, but especially to try to memorize Phil. 4:7, and rely on it to find the peace that passes understanding.
Postpartum depression does pass. Things will get better. The important thing is to know that it’s normal; you are not alone; there is help.
Depression can be a big part of other disorders, including Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, and even learning disorders such as ADD. All of these disorders can involve mood swings which may lead a practitioner to suspect or even diagnose Bipolar, but mood swings do NOT always mean the person has Bipolar Disorder. Mood swings are a big part of Attention Deficit Disorder, for example. Also, we are learning more clearly all the time that anxiety drives depression, so if someone is by nature a very anxious person who tends to have a lot of worries and fears, there will almost surely be depression at some point until or unless the person can learn to control the anxiety. Yes, it can be done It’s not easy, but it IS do-able.
If there is a question I have left unaddressed in these last three posts, please leave a message either on this blog or on my Facebook page Study God’s Word. I would be more than happy to address any question you may have that I have not already mentioned. This is a huge topic; I have merely brushed the surface. Again, there is already a wealth of material online, at your library, and in bookstores. Just be careful that anything you read is balanced and biblically correct. There is a lot of misinformation out there, too.
Depression affects the mind, the body, the emotions, and the soul. It is serious, and nothing to ignore or take lightly.