Understanding and Overcoming Postpartum Depression

Despite raised awareness, postpartum depression remains a largely misunderstood and under-treated problem. Here's what every new mother needs to know.

Four sleepless, tear-filled weeks after giving birth, Bridget Kane took her doctor’s advice to “get busy.” She strapped on an infant carrier, mowed the lawn, took a walk, cooked dinner and cleaned the house.

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She didn’t believe she was simply bored, as her doctor had surmised. But the 37-year-old first-time mom knew she desperately needed relief from an uneasy, smothering despair.

Kane got busy. But she didn’t get help for the postpartum depression and anxiety – not boredom or an average case of the baby blues – that made her life hell.

“I did it all and I didn’t feel any better,” says Kane, who knew that something was just plain wrong ever since Charlotte’s birth on May 21. “I cried all the time. I wanted to give her up for adoption because I didn’t think I could parent her. And this child was my heart’s desire.”

Kane thought she was alone in her pain. Hardly. Roughly 400,000 women in this country – 10 percent to 15 percent of all new mothers – suffer some form of postpartum mood disorder within a year of giving birth. The catalyst is usually the ebb and flow of mind- and body-bending pregnancy-related hormones, or a personal or family history of depression.

More in our series on postpartum mood disorders: