Postpartum depression (PPD) is very scary. I remember when my 1st was born and she wasn’t able to latch for 5 days, that I was down and even anxious. I thankfully had the baby blues rather than PPD. I however did learn later that breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin giving women the sense of happiness and relaxation. Thankfully I had a great doula and lactation consultant who helped me both physically to latch my daughter, and emotionally help calm me down and stay focused. If you have a newborn and haven’t already found a postnatal support person, I suggest you find one. La Leche League is an amazing resource for that. They are free and so helpful (http://www.lalecheleague.org/)
Some women are predisposed to PPD if they have a history of depression or it’s in their family. However some women are blindsided and suffer from PPD and don’t have the support system or knowledge of where to turn. Of all the research I have done, they all mention that 1 in 10 women will suffer from PPD. A recent study of 13,998 births in south England[i], found that those at highest risk of PPD are those who wished to breastfeed but were unable to do so. This is because of the lack of release of oxytocin from their body and the crashing emotions around the perceived inability to nurture their baby.
Researchers collected information on infant feeding and maternal mood at the same time. In this type of study, it’s impossible to tell whether depressed moms wean earlier, or moms who wean earlier develop depression.
Researcher Cindy Lee Dennis reviewed 49 studies on breastfeeding and depression in a paper in the journal Pediatrics last year. She concluded that depressive symptoms are a risk factor for breastfeeding failure:
The results from this review suggest that women with depressive symptomatology in the early postpartum period may be at increased risk for negative infant feeding outcomes including decreased breastfeeding duration, increased breastfeeding difficulties, and decreased levels of breastfeeding self-efficacy.
Similarly, the AHRQ report on breastfeeding and maternal and infant health outcomes concludes:
It is plausible that postpartum depression led to early cessation of breastfeeding, as opposed to breastfeeding altering the risk of depression. Both effects might occur concurrently[ii].
Either way, encouraging extended breastfeeding seems to be the best course of action to either ward off PPD, or to decrease it. Most medications are acceptable in breastfeeding. To find out whether or not your medication is acceptable in breastfeeding, go to Dr. Tom Hale’s website http://www.infantrisk.com/
(or http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/meds.shtml#sthash.9kwGcFkA.dpbs) . He is an amazing source of information for all things pregnancy and breastfeeding related. I frequently visit his site to update myself on current breastfeeding information and to research medications for other mothers as well as myself.
Here is a quick quiz http://www.babycenter.com/5_could-you-have-postpartum-depression-ppd_10351692.bc to see if you are suffering from PPD.
Another quiz (http://www.mombaby.org/PDF/Edinburgh.pdf )
If you feel that you are, it is advisable that you go to your doctor to discuss ways to help you cope with your PPD .
If you feel you have PPD, it is not a reason to feel alone or ashamed, it is a reason to seek medical attention as well as lactation support and education to ensure you have a proper latch. With a proper latch, your baby will transfer the milk which will help to release the oxytocin and help you with those good feelings.
As always, happy breastfeeding!