Postpartum depression is many different things, not just one thing. Postpartum depression can affect dads just as it can affect moms and it can visit adoptive parents not just birth parents. Postpartum depression is never just about the hormones of pregnancy and childbirth.
Did you know that American men get postpartum depression nearly as often as women do? Yup, the incidence rate for postpartum depression is 14% for women who give birth, 10% for dads, and somewhere around 15 % for adoptive moms (which is not statistically different from the 14% for birthing moms). That’s a lot of postpartum depression going on after bringing home baby. And it wasn’t always that way. Nor are the figures that high everywhere in the world. Depression is on the rise in our culture and is increasing worldwide wherever countries and cultures start to take on our values and habits. But depression can be prevented. And so can postpartum depression. Far from a biological given, the inevitable consequence of hormonal changes, depression can happen to anyone facing the massive emotional and social changes of bringing home baby—birth parents, adoptive parents, gay and lesbian parents as well as straight parents.
Identify your risk factors
If you are pregnant and expecting a baby, or are expecting to bring a baby into your life through adoption sometime soon, you have probably read about postpartum depression and wonder if it could happen to you.
Research into depression, anxiety, and even psychosis over the past 50 or so years reveals that there are predictable cognitive risk factors to depression. These risk factors involve negative habits of thought that generate negative mood states, and predictable interpersonal risk factors—habits of relating— that cause and maintain negative mood states. Bringing home a baby has a way of magnifying all the habits of thought and habits of relating that put people at risk for depression.
The cognitive risk factors include:
- an overly global cognitive style (you tend to catastrophize)
- difficulty identifying and tolerating ambiguity
- external locus of control and internalizing blame
- a ruminative coping style (you worry a lot)
The interpersonal risk factors:
- excessive reassurance seeking
- discounting reassurance received
- negative feedback seeking
- turning fear into anger
- avoidant coping style (you avoid conflict and then it blows up)
Learn skills to manage your risk factors:
If you’ve ever been depressed before, if you tend to struggle with anxiety, if you’re concerned about the postpartum period and how you might react, DrSara can help. DrSara has been studying postpartum depression—the transition to parenthood—in men and women, birthparents and adoptive ones, for three decades. She is the author of After The Stork: The Couple’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Postpartum Depression, and is in the process of developing an online course to go with it. Go to www.After The Stork.com to learn more.
Dr. Sara Rosenquist is a Board Certified Clinical Health Psychologist (ABPP) and Fellow of the Academy of Clinical Health Psychology (FACHP). She is a sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), and an approved consultant, certified in the practice of hypnosis by the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH). DrSara helps families, couples and individuals with hypnosis, sex therapy, marital therapy, marriage counseling, sex addiction, postpartum depression, and infertility issues. She is the author of “After The Stork: The Couple’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Postpartum Depression”, and enjoys working with clients from her office in Cary, NC.