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Mental Health Tip: May 28

Nothing seems like it would bring more joy to a family than the birth of a new baby. But for some women, childbirth can be followed by some form of postpartum depression, sometimes referred to as "the baby blues.' Such mood swings may be related to hormones, and dissipate quickly. In others, though, the depression can signal a more severe concern that will require intervention, according to Mental Health America.

Clinical depression occurs in approximately 15 to 25 percent of the population, with women twice as likely as men to experience it, particularly during the reproductive years. Therefore, women are especially vulnerable to bouts of depression during pregnancy and after childbirth. Mental Health America suggests about 80 percent of new mothers experience some symptoms.

In rare cases, women can experience postpartum psychosis, a condition with a quick and severe onset that may include refusal to eat, extreme confusion, memory loss, paranoia, irrational statements and preoccupation. This requires immediate medical attention, including hospitalization and medication.

If the symptoms persist beyond the first few weeks, Mental Health America advises this may signal a more serious problem that requires professional help. About 10 to 20 percent of new mothers suffer from the more serious form of postpartum depression that may be characterized by thoughts of harming the baby or excessive preoccupation with the baby's health, according to Mental Health America.

Postpartum depression can interfere with critical bonding between mother and infant, and so treatment needs to be commenced as soon as possible, according to Mental Health America. Treatments that may include medication and therapy are found to be effective, and studies indicate antidepressants are not harmful to breastfeeding babies, the agency states.

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