Consulting the PPD experts: the first conversation
It can be overwhelming to struggle with questions about postpartum depression, but there’s no reason to go through it alone. Some healthcare professionals are trained in postpartum depression, and they will be able to give you a detailed treatment plan, as well as extremely personalized care. Healthcare providers who aren't specifically experienced in care for PPD can refer pateints who are better able to help, and they can also be a place to start seeking treatment.
Some feelings - like anxiety, stress, and loneliness - are common among women who have recently given birth. These feelings are not easy to deal with, and they’re very real and uncomfortable. It can also be hard to distinguish between these feelings of the ‘baby blues’ and signs of postpartum depression.
If you’re having any of these feelings or thoughts and emotions that concern you, it’s best to bring these questions to a professional who specializes in postpartum care, and especially in postpartum depression. If you're not sure where to look, your current healthcare provider will likely be able to point you in the right direction.
How is postpartum depression diagnosed?
Women who suspect they may have postpartum depression, or who are having a difficult time taking care of themselves or their babies, should go to their healthcare providers. Providers can reach a diagnosis based on the number and type of symptoms that they notice in a patient. One tool for evaluating these symptoms that healthcare providers commonly use is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale, a short, ten-question quiz which helps to determine a new mom's risk level for PPD. This evaluation is usually given in pregnancy or at the postpartum checkup as part of routine screening; however if a woman is experiencing or reporting symptoms, it can be done then.
Since some symptoms of PPD can be hard to pin down, it’s especially important for women to talk honestly about the symptoms they’re experiencing. While it might be hard to admit to certain feelings or thoughts, these are also the exact things that a healthcare provider needs to know in order to determine the best course of treatment.
Things to know before your appointment
Once you’ve scheduled an appointment with a healthcare provider you feel comfortable talking to, there are a couple of things that you can do to get ready for your visit. You don’t have to do all of these things, but the more that you do, the better prepared you can be to talk to your provider.
- Try to read a little bit about postpartum depression. Getting more familiar with the condition will help you discuss it with your provider.
- Take some time every day to write down any troubling thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that you’ve been having lately in a journal. Try to also record anything that might have triggered mood changes or harmful thoughts. The key here is to try and pinpoint things that make you feel better or worse - this way you won’t have to think of anything off the top of your head during your appointment.
Things to do at your appointment
Once you get to your appointment, your healthcare provider will ask a variety of questions that can help them determine what exactly is going on. Try not to be nervous and instead see this as an opportunity to take even more of your health into your own hands. You are still in control. Consider doing the following:
- If you're parenting with a partner, and if you feel comfortable doing so, consider asking your partner to join you at your appointment. Postpartum depression can have an impact on the whole family, and having a partner there at an appointment can be helpful both for remembering symptoms and medical history and so that they get to hear first-hand any recommendations your healthcare provider makes.
- Ask your provider if there are any blood tests that they can do to determine if you have another medical reason for your changes in mood.
- Ask any questions that you can think of that you’d like answered. No question is too strange - it’s better to have your questions answered than to be left wondering.
- Listen carefully or take notes when your provider tells you a diagnosis, treatment plan, or any other important info. Sometimes it can be hard to remember everything that is said at an appointment, so writing things down could be very helpful.
What will your provider say?
Depending on your unique situation, your provider might make a variety of recommendations, like medications, therapy, or other kinds of treatment. It all depends on your individual factors. No matter what your provider says, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion, and in general don’t be afraid to ask for any kind of support that you need from your provider or your medical team.
- Julie A. Lamppa. "Talking about postpartum depression." MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Aug 11 2015. Web.
- "How do I talk to my healthcare provider?" PostpartumStress. The Postpartum Stress Center, LLC., 2017. Web.
- "Postpartum depression facts." NIMH. NIH Publication No. 13-8000 from National Institute of Mental Health, NIH, HHS, Jun 2016. Web.
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