Search the LHSFNA website
Published: June, 2016; Vol 13, Num 1

 

Understanding Postpartum Depression

Do you know anyone who has ever had a baby? If so, you may also know someone who developed postpartum depression (PPD).

One in seven women who give birth develop PPD. The condition occurs in the first few days and months after childbirth, affecting a mother’s ability to care for her baby, for herself and her ability to carry out other responsibilities at home and work. PPD can also happen after miscarriage and stillbirth.

Several factors are believed to contribute to PPD. These include the drastic drop in hormones that women experience at the end of pregnancy, stress and adjusting to the new demands of being a parent.

Have You Had Postpartum Depression? Researchers Want Your Help

A new free iPhone app aims to recruit participants for a study that could improve postpartum depression (PPD) treatment.

Women who download PPD ACT will be asked a series of questions about childbirth and any feelings of sadness, panic or anxiety they experienced afterwards. From these responses, researchers will invite 100,000 women to mail in saliva samples so their DNA can be compared with DNA from women who have been pregnant at least twice but did not develop PPD.

The goal of the study is to find out if genetics put some women at greater risk for PPD than others. The hope is that this will lead to quicker diagnosis and treatment. 

PPD is not the baby blues – the short-term mood swings that many women develop shortly after their baby is born. Those usually go away on their own within a few days or weeks. PPD lasts longer and is far more debilitating. Women experiencing symptoms should let their health care provider know immediately. (Family members can also make that call.)

Symptoms of PPD include:

  • Crying more often than usual
  • Feelings of anger
  • Withdrawing from loved ones
  • Feeling disconnected from your baby
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mother or doubting your ability to care for your baby
  • Worrying that you will hurt your baby

While men do not get PPD, they can be impacted by it when someone they care about is affected. Fortunately, there are things they can do to help. These include:

  • Helping around the house (doing the laundry, making dinner, bathing the baby, taking care of other children)
  • Setting limits with family and friends so the mother (and father) can rest
  • Accompanying her to medical appointments (and speaking up with questions to ensure she’s getting the best course of treatment)
  • Not pressuring her for sex (touching and cuddling might be more comfortable at this time)
  • Being supportive and sympathetic (encouraging her to talk about her feelings, reassuring her that you love her and that she will get better)

The good news is that PPD is treatable, usually with medication and/or talk therapy that may also include the spouse and other family members. When promptly treated, women who develop PPD do get well and go on to enjoy and love their new babies.

Research Goes Wireless

PPD ACT (see sidebar) is an example of how apps are transforming medical research, including removing some of the obstacles participants face. Until recently, anyone taking part in a clinical study almost always had to live nearby or be willing to take time off from work to travel to where the research was being conducted.

When apps are used for collecting data, close proximity is no longer a prerequisite. Apps also make it possible to inexpensively collect information from a more diverse and larger population. Since Apple began releasing specialized research apps in 2015, more than 75,000 people have enrolled in health studies.

You can find out more about free medical research apps and participating in clinical trials by going to www.apple.com/researchkit/.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]