Thoughtful Parenting: Postpartum depression — help for moms, dads and kids
Over the past decade, well-known women such as Brooke Shields and Marie Osmond have bravely shared their stories about postpartum depression. Their stories are not necessarily unique, but have helped us understand PPD is real and something to take seriously.
At best, parents are in a good place physically and mentally to begin the task of parenting. But some moms and dads don’t feel well from the start, and the demands of parenthood only add to the stress. In some instances, depression and anxiety can occur and if already present, can worsen.
Mood and anxiety disorders that occur during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby can affect any woman of childbearing age, typically affecting 10 to 15 percent of women within the first year of their baby’s life. Men can be affected too. A father’s past history of depression and anxiety, depression during the prenatal period and his female partner’s depression predict whether a man will experience depression after a baby’s birth.
A child’s physical, social and emotional development depends on the health of his or her parents. Children whose father and/or mother experience depression and anxiety are at greater risk of experiencing behavioral problems in childhood. There may be genetic reasons for this, however when parents are having a hard time managing emotions and are persistently unable to respond to their child, some children learn unhealthy ways of coping. In babies, the attachment process can be disrupted. Over time, children learn they may have to act out to get their needs met or may simply give up.
Taking care of children means taking care of parents. Things don’t have to be perfect; they never are. But, children have a better chance at healthy development if their moms and dads are doing reasonably well.
Signs of mood or anxiety problems during pregnancy and after a child is born may include irritability, hopelessness, anger, problems with sleep and concentration, guilt, low interest in the baby, panic, extreme worries about the baby, highly intrusive and disturbing thoughts, flashbacks to a highly stressful delivery experience, hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there, excessive energy and thoughts of hurting oneself and/or the baby.
If you are a parent and think you may be experiencing any of these problems or have concerns, please ask for assistance. If you are a concerned friend or family member, reach out with kindness and compassion. Help and support are available.
Local resources include primary care providers, OBGYNs, children’s medical providers, Mind Springs Health (office: 970-879-2141; 24/7 Crisis Line: 1-888-207-4004), and other licensed mental health professionals in the Yampa Valley (steamboatcounseling.com).
For more information, visigt PostPartum Support International at postpartum.net or call the Warm Line at 1-800-944-4PPD (4773).
Barbara Gueldner, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist specializing in children and families. She is a member of First Impressions, the Early Childhood Council of Routt County. She is the co-author of Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom and the Strong Kids and Strong Teens curricula. Find her at successfulkidstoday.com.
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