Just because your baby is in the NICU does not necessarily mean that you will develop Postpartum Depression. The NICU experience, however, is emotionally stressful, and education can be the best early defense system.
Postpartum Depression is a type of mood disorder striking within the first year after giving birth. A mood is an emotion or feeling that affects our behavior, or how we act. Your mood also affects how you feel about yourself and life in general. Depression is a sad mood that you cannot control. All women of childbearing age should be aware that Postpartum Depression can affect any woman after delivery, regardless of whether she is a first time mother or has had previous pregnancies. Parenthood is a challenging and emotional transition for all women, and some may have difficulty reporting their experiences to healthcare providers.
Women often feel sad, afraid, angry, or nervous after their baby is born. These feelings are commonly referred to as baby blues. The baby blues affects up to 80 percent of all new mothers, with onset usually between three and 14 days after delivery (postpartum). Symptoms typically last two to six weeks and may include: fatigue, tension, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, lack of confidence, alternating joy and sadness, and/or an inability to concentrate.
Postpartum depression is a more serious condition and early diagnosis and treatment are needed to prevent further problems. Postpartum depression affects an estimated 10 to 15 percent of new mothers. Prior incidents of depression or anxiety, or a family history of postpartum depression places a woman at a 50 to 80 percent higher risk of developing this condition herself. If left untreated, symptoms can last weeks, months or longer. Symptoms may include: uncontrollable crying/sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, compulsiveness, weight changes, sleep disturbances, feeling detached from the baby, excessive fear for the baby's health and safety, mood swings, feeling unimportant or guilty most of the time, and frightening thoughts, sometimes of death or suicide.
If you feel that you are experiencing these any of these symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor for consultation/treatment. You can also obtain referrals for postpartum counseling and support group resources by contacting your NICU social worker.