Beat the blues: Dealing with postpartum depression and SAD

New mothers may see an extra challenge with postpartum depression during winter months. Shorter, grayer days and a lack of easy access to outside activities can contribute to the winter blues, or the more serious Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The effects of wintertime can also make postpartum depression — caused by significant hormonal changes during childbirth — more of a challenge for new mothers.

The key to overcoming postpartum depression is paying close attention and responding quickly with treatment, according to Dr. Michelle Neff, an OB/GYN at St.Vincent Carmel Hospital.

“Most depressive disorders are worse in the winter,” Neff said. “So it is even more important to be watching for symptoms.”

Women who have suffered from any form of depression in the past are more likely to struggle with postpartum depression. “That raises a red flag,” Neff said. “But sometimes, women who have postpartum depression have never had problems with other types of depression before.”

The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to those of SAD and other forms of depression: sleeping too much or not enough, a drastic change in appetite, frequent crying, and feelings of sadness and helplessness.

Sometimes new mothers figure out they are feeling different and seek help. Other times, Neff said, the spouse will notice a change and notify their health care provider.

“Often it isn’t easy for us to see these kinds of changes in ourselves,” Neff said.

Treatments can vary from case to case. But Neff said most antidepressants are safe during pregnancy and also afterwards, even while breastfeeding. Most often, Neff suggests quick-acting antidepressants. “They need to start feeling better soon,” she said. Women suffering from postpartum depression can also benefit from seeing a therapist and developing coping mechanisms that way, Neff added.

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