Monday, March 28, 2011

Postpartum Depression: Finding Your Way Through

I would like to introduce Dr. Shoshana Bennett, or also known to those she works with as Dr. Shosh. I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Shosh about postpartum depression, something many women experience after the birth of their child. It is an isolating and difficult thing to go through, but we're not alone, and there is help. "Many new moms experience the baby blues after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells and fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis develops after childbirth." ~Mayo Clinic. I experienced postpartum depression after my first child was born, and postpartum blues after my second and third. This is a subject that is dear to my heart, and I am honored to introduce Dr. Shosh.

Emerging from her own nightmare with postpartum depression thirty years ago, Dr. Shoshana Bennett started a crusade that has taken her into the lives of thousands of women across North America and around the world... helping them rebuild their lives and helping families heal. Dr. Bennett knows that positive thought, hope and applying knowledge are powerful things... and she helps her clients do that every day.

For more information about her lectures and books please visit Dr. Shosh at, or call her at 707-875-9961.

Schnaars: What inspired you to become involved in the field of postpartum depression?

Dr. Shosh: Personal experience! I’m a survivor of two life-threatening postpartum depressions after the births of both my children. After years of suffering I realized there was a name for this. It became my mission to educate medical and mental health professionals and the public to help minimize and prevent unnecessary suffering.

Schnaars: What is the prevalence of postpartum depression?

Dr. Shosh: About 15% of moms – that’s around 1 in 7 – experience something more severe than the normal Baby Blues.

Schnaars: What are the causes?

Dr. Shosh: We believe the main cause is biochemical due to the huge shifting of the reproductive hormones – mainly estrogen and progesterone – following delivery. There are other possible causes as well, including a lack of support, isolation, sleep deprivation, lack of proper nutrients, and severe stress.

Schnaars: What are the warning signs?

Dr. Shosh: Some of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression include difficulty sleeping at night even when the baby’s sleeping, loss of appetite, anxiety, low self esteem, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in things that were once pleasurable, and irritability.

Schnaars: Is medicine the only treatment during pregnancy or postpartum or are there others?

Dr. Shosh: There’s no cookie-cutter approach to the treatment of depression during pregnancy or postpartum. That’s why each woman who contacts me receives an individual assessment and wellness plan. If she truly needs psychiatric medicine to recover, then that’s what she should do. But often we’re able to help her with natural and alternative approaches such as specific nutrients, light therapy, acupuncture, and many more possibilities. Depending on her particular symptoms, severity of symptoms, and wishes, a strategy for recovery is set up.

Schnaars: Are some women more likely to develop depression during pregnancy or postpartum?

Dr. Shosh: There are factors which make a woman high risk, but no one is immune. If a woman has a history of depression, negative mood changes on the birth control pill, PMS or PMDD, pregnancy or postpartum depression, or trauma she is at higher risk than others. A family history of depression or other mood disorder also makes her high risk.

Schnaars: Are there ways to prevent it?

Dr. Shosh: Yes, at least ways to minimize the risk. A few hours of uninterrupted sleep at night to protect serotonin levels, excellent nutrients such as omega 3 fish oil, emotional support, physical support, exercise, and therapy are some of the basic keys to prevention.

Schnaars: Does postpartum depression go away by itself?

Dr. Shosh: Not necessarily. It’s crucial that she receive help as soon as possible so both her prognosis and the prognosis of the family will be optimal. Untreated postpartum depression hurts children, marriages, and there’s also a risk of suicide.

Schnaars: Should a woman try to avoid medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

Dr. Shosh: If medication is what she needs (or part of what she needs) in order to feel 100%, then she should do it. This depends on the severity of her illness. Depression crosses the placenta and definitely needs treatment of some kind. Often with a strategy of wellness from natural and alternative options she is able to avoid or minimize taking medication.

Schnaars: Should a woman go off her antidepressant when she’s pregnant?

Dr. Shosh: Never, ever should a woman abruptly stop taking an antidepressant when pregnant. This can cause serious mental and physical symptoms. Ideally a woman taking medication should consult with a doctor before the pregnancy so a plan of weaning, changing medication and dosages can be discussed. This doctor should have excellent clinical expertise in this specialized area.

Schnaars: How can loved ones help the mom recover from postpartum depression?

Dr. Shosh: Tell her, “Whatever you need in order to feel like yourself again, I support you.” Remind her it’s not her fault, she’s a good mom, and with proper help she will recover. No more shame should be associated with this any more than gestational diabetes or other very common perinatal disorder. This is not a character flaw or a personality weakness and she deserves to be happy. Drive her to appointments, take over house chores and nighttime baby care so she can sleep. Bring her nutritious meals and make sure she’s nurturing herself.

Schnaars: I would like to close with this question that your last response has brought to me. How can you tell the difference between the normal Baby Blues and postpartum depression?

Dr. Shosh: There are two main ways to tell the difference. First, the mild Baby Blues should be gone by about two weeks following delivery. If it continues, even if it’s mild, she should get help from a therapist who specializes in this field. The other way to tell is by the severity of the symptoms. If the symptoms are getting in the way of her daily functioning, she should seek help, even if it’s during the first two weeks postpartum. As in my case, once that placenta was delivered I plummeted down to bottom of that horrible well. The illness hit me like a truck even before I left the hospital.

Pregnant on Prozac is a comprehensive resource guide outlining the pros and cons of various natural and medical treatments for depression and anxiety during pregnancy. Well-researched and well-written... a very interesting read. Click here for more information., for more information.

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