Healthy Living: Combating postpartum depression

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What you thought was the "baby blues" seems to be lasting longer than expected or maybe you're not feeling quite like yourself. In this week's Healthy Living, we're talking to new moms and even dads who might be suffering from postpartum depression.

"When everything felt really hard I just wished I could go away," said Holly Cooper.

Giving birth to a baby is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life, they say.

"It's that way of thinking that can confuse new mothers, who often feel shame because they're not happy."

It's not your fault and you're not a bad parent. You just might be going through postpartum depression or PPD.

"It is caused by hormonal fluctuations, lack of sleep, and other underlying conditions. It isn’t a character flaw," said Dr. Drew Oliveira, Senior Medical Director of Regence.

Your friends or family might have told you, it's probably just the "baby blues."

"Baby blues occur in almost everybody. You’re tired, you’re not sleeping, you have some mood swings, you may have anxiety about taking care of a baby for the first time," said Oliveira.

When those feelings last longer than a couple of weeks and start to intensify that's your red flag.

"Intense anger, anxiety, difficulty sleeping … it can last for months afterward. Other things to watch for are withdrawal from others, not interested in caring for the baby and the thing we worry about the most are suicidal thoughts or ideations," said Oliveira.

Cooper, a Seattle mother of three, said she felt rage during her experience with PPD. She said she started feeling this way about four months after her first daughter was born.

"It felt very uncontrolled when the anger would come and I yelled at my tiny little baby children a lot and I knew that wasn't normal, or that wasn't me or how I wanted to talk to my kids. But I couldn't tame it," said Cooper.

She reached out to her doctor at the time but said they offered little to no help, so she relied on friends for emotional support.

"Looking back I wish I would have sought more help, whether that was therapy or medication, a lot sooner," said Cooper.

The second time around, when her son was born, she got help right away and was prescribed Zoloft to help manage the depressive episodes. Despite her initial reluctance to taking medication, Cooper said it made a world of difference.

"I was kind of on my high horse like I can do everything right and fix my postpartum depression. I can eat right, I can exercise, I can have special bonding time with my baby, I can carve out time with my husband. I can try to do all the things that they say help with PPD but at the end of the day, medication was the one thing that really brought things full circle," said Cooper.

Doctors say there are risk factors for PPD like family history of depression, complications with the newborn, and health issues.

Oliveira says 1 in 10 men also can suffer from a PPD episode, most common when their partner is experiencing those similar types of symptoms.

Research shows if postpartum depression goes untreated it can lead to chronic depression, so doctors say don't wait and seek help right away.

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