Most new mothers experience baby blues – a few weeks of emotional upheaval that may include being irritable or crying easily. But some mothers have postpartum depression (PPD), with symptoms that are significantly more severe and prolonged.
Women with PPD may feel sad, anxious, irritable, unmotivated or overwhelmed, says Dr. Simone Vigod, an associate professor in University of Toronto’s department of psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine, and a staff psychiatrist at Women’s College Hospital. These woman usually experience some symptoms within three months of giving birth, but Vigod says: "As a psychiatrist, I see the first year postpartum as a high-risk period."
Help is available, Vigod writes in the current edition of Doctors' Notes, a weekly column in the Toronto Star written by members of U of T's Faculty of Medicine. Research shows that interventions such as peer support and home visits from public health nurses can help women even before PPD symptoms develop, she writes. And for women with PPD, “effective treatments include talk therapy, and in more serious cases, medication.”
Vigod writes about her involvement in an international study called PACT for the Cure that will help scientists learn why some women develop PPD while others don’t. Participants download an app and answer questions as to whether they have experienced PPD. If they have, they are asked to provide a DNA sample to help in research to find genetic determinants.
Vigod is also involved in developing online health groups and virtual psychotherapy, to help women who live in more remote areas or those who struggle to get to appointments.