12 Nov Are you at risk for another episode of Postpartum Depression?
Elly was completely shocked when she developed Postpartum Depression following the birth of her first baby. Her pregnancy was planned and uneventful and labor and birth were natural and without complications. But a few weeks after the birth, with ongoing sleep deprivation, a colicky baby and lack of help and support, Elly started feeling down, unmotivated, anxious and hopeless.
When one evening she burst into tears and told her husband Peter that she couldn’t cope anymore, he urged her to see a therapist.
Elly was diagnosed as having a moderate episode of Postpartum depression. With the help of a therapist, who encouraged her to make some lifestyle changes and get some support, as well as work on her thought patterns ( Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), she got better and was free of depression by the time her baby was 6 months old.
Recently, Peter and Elly have been considering getting pregnant again. However, They have both been concerned about the possibility of a second episode of depression. Elly has been doing very well for the past 18 months and has gone back to her full- time job.
So, is Elly at a high risk of developing PPD again?
The answer is not a definitive ” Yes” or ” No”.
Even though there seems to be a connection between biological factors and PPD, possibly a genetic sensitivity to hormonal changes that affects brain functioning, a single cause of PPD has not been identified. A growing body of research suggests that women who had one episode of depression, which they recovered spontaneously from, may indeed be at a higher risk for developing another episode. However, women who received therapy, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Interpersonal Psychotherapy, or marital therapy, were not at a higher risk for developing another episode. This can be explained by the fact that women who go through therapy acquire some new coping skills as well as resolve old issues that may have been at the root of their depression.
So, does a woman who had PPD and who is planning to get pregnant again need to worry about a second episode more than a woman who’s never been depressed before?
The answer is that it would be highly advisable for a woman like that to be closely monitored by a health care professional to ensure she doesn’t slip back into depression. If a long time has past since she was in therapy, it might be a very good idea to have at least a few sessions with a psychologist. If the woman has not had any therapy before, it is highly recommended to engage in therapy as soon as possible.
So how did Elly do? Elly did just fine. She went back to see her therapist who monitored her during the pregnancy and for 6 months after the birth. This time Peter was much more involved in therapy and in the day-to-day running of the household. With the help of their therapist, Peter and Elly strengthened their relationship. Except for a couple of days following the birth when Elly was a bit weepy, she remained free of depression and well adjusted to being a mother of two lovely children.