Treating Postpartum and Perinatal Depression
By Alan B. Densky, CH
Everyone experiences feelings of sadness or discouragement from time to time. Most people have these emotions for a few hours or days at a time. Up to one-fifth of the world's population, however, suffer from a condition called clinical depression, in which these moods last for several days, weeks, or months. These moods cause the person to develop significant problems functioning in work, family, or social relationships, which can become quite severe and even disabling.
Women who experience signs of depression after becoming pregnant are sometimes diagnosed with perinatal depression. This illness can begin any time after a woman becomes pregnant, or any time thereafter, until the baby is one year old. Most commonly, however, women who encounter this condition after the child is born are diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Perinatal depression or postpartum depression may be caused by a number of factors. These factors may be physical in nature. For example, women with a personal or family history of clinical depression or mental illness are more likely to experience perinatal depression or postpartum depression. In addition, changes in hormones after childbirth, such as drops in estrogen and progesterone levels, can cause this condition. Sometimes, the thyroid gland, which regulates the body's metabolism, malfunctions after delivery. This can lead to symptoms of depression such as tiredness, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
Sometimes, mental depression is caused by psychological factors. Women may feel tired, overwhelmed and stressed as they learn to cope with the demands made by this new addition to their family. These issues are sometimes magnified by a lack of support from family, friends, or spouse. Financial issues can also contribute to the development of postpartum depression.
Perinatal depression and postpartum depression can have serious consequences for both the mother and the new baby. Anxiety and depression can prevent a mother from bonding fully with her child or being able to meet her child's physical and emotional needs. This can worsen the mother's feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and self-doubt.
The infant is also adversely affected by the new mother's problems. Failure to bond with his or her mother can cause the baby to experience significant problems with trust and intimacy in personal relationships throughout life. Further, babies who do not have their physical or emotional needs met often experience delays or failure to grow and develop properly. This problem, called "failure to thrive," can become very serious or even fatal to the infant.
The entire family can be affected by perinatal depression or postpartum depression. The spouse or significant other may feel neglected, left out, or powerless to help relieve these depression symptoms. This may cause significant relationship problems, and may even irreparably damage the relationship. Additionally, other children in the family may experience similar feelings, and develop academic or peer relationship problems as well.
Depression affects everyone in the family. Therefore, it is extremely important for a woman experiencing perinatal depression or postpartum depression to seek depression treatment as soon as the condition is recognized. A number of approaches are available, including counseling and medication therapy. Medications, however, can be dangerous for nursing babies, and may have unpredictable results because of the wide hormonal fluctuations a woman experiences during these tumultuous times. Moreover, traditional counseling approaches can be time-consuming and expensive.
Two therapies that do not involve medications that can quickly yield dramatically effective results are hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP. Traditional Hypnosis is most effective for persons who are easily hypnotized or who are able to accept suggestions without needing to analyze or understand them. Ericksonian Hypnotherapy is very effective for the segment of the population that tends to analyze or over analyze. These strategies allow people to learn to relax and eliminate stress.
For persons who are more critical or analytical thinkers, NLP is usually more effective. Using this approach, trained professionals offer clients depression help by coaching them to learn to reprogram their thought processes. This approach can, quite literally, help a person to think through the depressive mood and overcome it.
People can learn to overcome depression by mastering NLP techniques such as anchoring. They are coached to remember times when they felt happy and in control of their circumstances. As they recall the memory, the feelings from it are revivified. Clients are instructed to touch two fingers together while experiencing these emotions. The unconscious mind associates the touch of the two fingers with the feelings. Thus, the finger touch becomes an "anchor."
Then, anytime that the client begins to feel overwhelmed, he/she triggers the anchor by touching these same two fingers together again. This brings back feelings of self-control and creates empowerment.
Through another technique called the Flash, people are taught to think away negative emotions. They instruct their unconscious mind to automatically substitute positive thoughts in place of negative ones. In other words, when negative thoughts arise, the brain automatically exchanges them for positive responses. After learning this technique, people find it almost impossible to think negative thoughts!
Summary: Perinatal depression and postpartum depression can have disastrous effects for a mother and her new child. The rest of the family is also deeply affected by these conditions. Because of the potential severity of the consequences of this illness, women with depression should seek help as soon as symptoms begin. Two very effective strategies that do not require medication or enormous expenditures of time and money are hypnotherapy and NLP.
©2007 By Alan B. Densky, CH.
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