Can a Mother Experiencing Postpartum Depression Continue to Breastfeed Her Baby

Submitted by Nick on January 18, 2012

Postpartum depression is also referred to as postnatal depression. It is a type of clinical depression that affects women after childbirth. It usually begins in the first few months after delivery of the baby and may persist for long periods of time. Some cases of postpartum depression are known to subside within a few months, while other cases may continue for up to a year. The symptoms of postpartum depression include fatigue, sadness, decreased libido, anxiety, irritability and alterations in eating and sleeping patterns.


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Some believe that postpartum depression may be caused by certain vitamin deficiencies. But studies have shown that the hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy are responsible for the symptoms of postpartum depression. The treatment for postpartum depression includes medication and counseling.

Breastfeeding mothers can continue to breastfeed their babies even while they are on anti-depressants. In fact, breastfeeding is even known to relieve the symptoms. During breastfeeding certain hormones are released in the mother’s body. These hormones include oxytocin and prolactin. Research has indicated that there is a reduced neuro-endocrine response to stress when these hormones are released. Therefore breastfeeding mothers experience a lower level of stress. The high amounts of prolactin that are released in the mother’s body also bring about an increased sense of well-being. Studies have also indicated a reduced risk of severe postpartum depression in nursing mothers. Mothers may also experience depression due to other factors such as family stress and breastfeeding problems. Babies who have difficulty in settling could also be the source of anxiety for the mother.

Obtaining the proper breastfeeding advice from a doctor will help to deal with some of these problems. Some women may even stop breastfeeding completely in their struggle with depressive feelings.

Postpartum depression can rob a mother of the joys of having a baby. There are many drugs available for the treatment of postpartum depression. However some doctors advise their patients to avoid the intake of medications as it could pass into the milk supply. In severe cases of depression wherein the mother cannot care for herself or the baby, antidepressants may become necessary. This is usually also accompanied by therapy. Psychotherapy is another form of treatment for this condition. Support groups are also helpful in dealing with postpartum depression. In some cases the treatment plan also involves marriage counseling. Some women may require hormone therapy such as estrogen replacement therapy. There are certain risks involved in this type of treatment and hence proper medical guidance is necessary.

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