Dear Ask The Doctor: Since becoming pregnant with my second child, my mental health seems to be crashing. I am already sleep deprived, running on an average of 5 hours of sleep a night that is inturrupted through the night. I feel I have lost the ability to handle any form of stress. I went from being a full time employee, full time student, and a mother, to nearly dropping college, poor work performance, constant crying, and feeling like I am no good, and a failure of a wife and mother. I know these are signs of depression, but I don't understand why. We just bought a house, we are expecting our son in the summer, I have everything I want, but I can't seem to get it together. It is now to the point I feel I can't handle my job either. Is there some kind of emotional disorder brought on by pregnancy itself? I don't understand why I have turned into a shadow of myself that I don't recognize.
Dear Kelly: Birth of a child can trigger a multitude of emotions. Many mothers experience baby blues after birth which commonly include crying spells and mood swings that do not last long. however in some cases, the depression may be more severe and long lasting and is referred to as postpartum depression. There is no single identifiable factor that causes postpartum depression. Drop in hormone levels in the body after childbirth, changes in the systemic circulation, metabolic changes, deprivation of sleep, anxiety, demanding baby or older siblings, difficulty breast-feeding, exhaustion and lack of support can all contribute towards postpartum depression. It is very important at this time to not take your symptoms lightly and consult your health-care provider as soon as possible. Diagnosis of postpartum depression would depend on certain signs and symptoms including depressed mood throughout the day that developed within 4 weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression is often treated with counseling and medication. Councelling inculdes talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional. Sometimes antidepressants may be needed if symptoms are severe enough. With appropriate treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away within a few months. I do hope that I have answered your concerns. I wish you well, take care.