As many as four out of every 25 new mothers are likely to experience postpartum depression following the birth of a baby. Most of these women will experience only mild symptoms that don’t last long but others will not have such an easy go of it. Antidepressants often help but many new mothers, especially those who breastfeed, are reluctant to take medications that may be passed along to their babies. A recent study brings the good news of a chemical-free solution to baby blues that become overwhelming.
Effective help can be chemical free and no more than a phone call away, according to the findings of a study led by Nicole Letourneau, Ph.D., RN. Latourneau, a professor of nursing at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine in the Canadian province of Alberta, discovered that some of the best medicine for new moms with postpartum depression is a phone call from another mom who experienced postpartum depression but is now free of it.
"Treatments for postpartum depression are particularly important to prevent adverse effects on the mother-child relationship, and limit the potential impact on child development," according to Letourneau. Mothers who suffer postpartum depression often feel inadequate and unable to care for their child. Some of them find it simply impossible to become engaged with the day-to-day aspects of bonding with and caring for their new baby. In extreme cases, a mother may develop feelings of negativity toward the child or entertain dangerous thoughts.
Some women never discuss their feelings of depression and inadequacy because they fear being judged as bad mothers. Letourneau’s research team set out to evaluate the benefits of “non-judgmental peer support,” the kind that comes from other women who’ve felt exactly the same way but now have no symptoms of postpartum depression.
Letourneau’s study group included:
- 64 new mothers (averaging 26 years of age) who were experiencing depression within the first 24 months after childbirth.
- A team of volunteers who had recovered from postpartum depression; these women were trained to offer comfort and advice over the phone to the 64 new mothers.
The study was conducted from May 2011 through October 2013. All women in both groups of the study were from New Brunswick, Canada.
At the beginning of the study, 100% of the new mothers reported symptoms of postpartum depression. Over the course of study:
- The volunteers made an average of 9 calls to the new mothers.
- Seven weeks into the study, 37 new mothers were still participating; only 3 of the 37 (8.1%) were still feeling symptoms of depression.
- At week 14, 34 mothers remained in the study and 4 of them (11.8%) reported lingering symptoms.
The research team contributes the rise (from 8.1% to 11.8%) as an indication of relapse, which is experienced by many people who suffer depression. Relapse may be an indication that alternate forms of support, including medication, may be in order for these special cases. Women who experienced depression at any time before pregnancy are more likely to develop postpartum depression, a factor that contributes to the incidence of postpartum depression and should be discussed with a physician.
- Letourneau, Nicole, et al. "Quasi-experimental evaluation of a telephone-based peer support intervention for maternal depression." Wiley Online Library. JAN: Journal of Advanced Nursing, 23 Feb. 2015. Wiley Online Library. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
- "Postpartum Depression." MedlinePlus. National Institutes of Health, 26 Sept. 2014. US National Library of Medicine. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.