Hot Topic: Postpartum - Depression, Drugs, and Doulas
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects as many as 400,000 women a year according to a recent ABC News article that sings the praises of the newly FDA approved drug brexanolone, also called Zulresso. It is to be administered intravenously over a period of 60 hours and is believed to reverse or alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression in as little as 24-48 hours. One woman who participated in the drug trial reported that her feelings of despair waned and didn’t return, she felt more energetic, and even got her appetite back.
This is an exciting breakthrough in specifically treating postpartum depression. Drugs generally prescribed for depression symptoms do not always help with postpartum depression as they fail to address the hormonal aspects associated with PPD. While very promising, it comes with a hefty price tag of $20-$30K that may or may not be covered by insurance companies as of now.
While a dramatic shift in hormone levels has been named partially responsible for PPD, let’s look at another factor. We live in a society where many women work up until the last possible moment to get the most out of the vacation time they must take in order to have paid maternity leave. Women are expected to give birth and carry on as if nothing ever happened. While at home recovering, many times they are expected to take care of their newborn, themselves, and continuing to prepare meals and keep up with the cleaning. If this is not their first child, they must also attend to the needs of the older child. The whole “sleep when the baby sleeps’ advice goes flying through the window.
Although we are working hard to reintroduce the village mentality, after the initial influx of family members and visitors come through with the excitement of the new baby and spouses go back to work, the fact remains that many new moms feel isolated, alone, and overwhelmed.
An option for some families could be to look into hiring a postpartum doula, and have that person in place giving support before the baby blues set in or has a chance to snowball into PPD. Studies show how much birth doulas help with many factors associated with pregnancy, birth, and higher satisfaction in the birth experience in general. Postpartum doulas can assist by assuring a continuity of care once the family is home and transitioning to a new phase of life.
If families could invest their resources into a postpartum doula, many of the things that cause mothers to sink deeper into depression could be alleviated. PPD does not just affect the mother. It affects the entire family. When postpartum doulas are entrusted to help the mother recover, the whole family also benefits. Postpartum doulas are more than mother’s helpers, dishwashers, or laundry service. They are also listening ears, shoulders to cry on, and hands to hold when one of the happiest times of your life leaves you feeling deflated. They continue to hold or protect the space you need to grow into your new role. Postpartum doulas are trained professionals who take care of you and your needs so you can concentrate on recovery, healing (physically and sometimes emotionally), and bonding with your baby.
Please understand that a postpartum doula is not the end all, one stop shop to end PPD. Even with a postpartum doula, some women will still need medication. There is no doubt that medication is absolutely useful when needed. But when we, as a society, begin to offer, accept, and employ more care of the mother in the fourth trimester, the need for such intervention may begin to decline.
To find out more about hiring a postpartum doula, please feel free to reach out the North Atlanta Concierge Doula Services, which will begin offering postpartum doula services in the summer of 2019.