Beating Baby Blues

December 21, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
It's the most common complication of pregnancy. Between 10 and 20 percent of new moms struggle with the condition that causes extreme anxiety, sleepless nights and disturbing thoughts. Now, doctors are trying to stop the symptoms before the baby is even born.After her daughter Alexis was born, just heating up leftovers was too much for Gina Adkins to handle.

"I couldn't function," Adkins told Ivanhoe. "I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I lost a tremendous amount of weight."

A new blood test could have warned Adkins of her risk during pregnancy. Researchers found women with elevated levels of the hormone pCRH at 25 weeks had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

"It's almost like an amnio," Adkins described. "Women want to find out if their child has Down syndrome or if they're having a boy or a girl. This is just as important."

Doctors can then intervene earlier and prescribe meds during pregnancy.

Former beauty queen and new mom Lauren Machos handles the stage with ease, but her postpartum depression became overwhelming.

"I had to make a rational decision whether or no to go home to these two or drive my car off the road," Machos recalled. Machos was admitted to the only inpatient program in the country for postpartum depression at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

"I think the biggest benefit is just educating them, so normalizing the illness, saying, 'No you're not the only one you're not going crazy. You're not going to be here for months and months,'" Elizabeth Bullard, M.D., a psychiatrist at University of North Carolina Health Care, explained.

Moms stay an average of seven to ten days in the locked-door facility. They receive intensive counseling, have regular visits with their families, and are forced to catch up on sleep.

"My eight days there really helped the situation I was going through, and I think made the recovery to this point much easier than if I was to go it alone," Machos said.

The biggest problem is knowing the difference between baby blues and depression. Up to 80 percent of new moms experience baby blues -- feeling emotional or anxious for a couple of days. Depression impacts up to 20 percent of moms. They struggle to sleep and take care of themselves and the baby. When it lasts longer than two weeks, get help.

They're new ways to help moms take control of depression and enjoy one of the most important times of their lives. Women with a history of depression or who've suffered from postpartum depression in the past are two-thirds more likely to suffer from it again the next time they have a baby.

If you would like more information, please contact:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services's National Women's Health Information Center
http://www.womenshealth.gov
(800) 994-9662


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