What you need to know about postpartum depression and how exercise can help

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Postpartum depression

photo credit: http://www.motherhood-cafe.com/

To answer your questions about postpartum depression, we have with us today Dr. Duncan Wigg and Jennifer Johnson. Dr. Wigg is a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist and has developed the Postpartum Distress program at Pepperdine University’s Community Counseling Center. Jennifer Johnson is a perinatal exercise specialist and founder of Fit for Expecting. Dr. Wigg and Jennifer Johnson have partnered to revolutionize the treatment of postpartum depression with an integrative care model of exercise and psychotherapy. 

Q: What’s the difference between “baby blues” and “postpartum depression”?

A: Research indicates that baby blues is a minor affective disorder that occurs during the first postpartum week, with symptoms that include mood instability, sleep disturbance, a sense of emotional fragility, and tearfulness.  May last for several weeks, but does remit.  Reportedly affects 60-80% of mothers.  On the other hand, postpartum depression, affecting 10-15% of mothers is characterized by extreme mood emotional fragility, intense sadness, overwhelming fatigue, severe sense of isolation and loneliness, inconsolable tearfulness and crying and sense of hopelessness.  The psychotic features sensationalized in the media are quite rare.  These features can last many months and may require professional intervention to facilitate remission.

-Dr. Wigg

Q: When should you seek help and how do you find it?

A: Any of the aforementioned emotions and experiences are worth addressing with your health care provider.  Do not hesitate to speak to friends, family and those that you count on to assist you in putting these experiences in perspective.  You may find that others have had similar experiences and can speak to steps they took to resolve the fear and confusion surrounding the unexpected emotional phenomenon of motherhood. The frequency of mothers who have experienced postpartum depression (10-15%) is sufficiently significant such that there is a great deal of familiarity with this emotional phenomenon to include steps to take to seek professional emotional assistance.

If few referral resources are available to a mother suffering from postpartum depression, she, and her family can contact Postpartum Support International for resources and psychological referrals.  Research also indicates that mothers struggling with postpartum depression benefit not only from individual and family psychotherapy, but can also benefit significantly with a program of structured exercise supervised by a perinatal exercise specialist.

-Dr. Wigg

Q: How does exercise help to treat and reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression?

A: Research has shown that a structured and supervised exercise program can be very effective in the treatment of and in reducing the risk of developing postpartum depression. It is an attractive option for many pregnant and nursing moms because it does not involve the use of medication which can be harmful to the baby.

A properly structured and supervised exercise program …

  • Gives moms a break from the 24/7 job of caring for a newborn
  • Reduces feelings of anxiety and stress
  • Improves body image and self esteem
  • Provides social support
  • Decreases physical and mental fatigue
  • Increases mood enhancing endorphins

-Jennifer Johnson

Dr. Wigg and Jennifer Johnson are available for speaking engagements on this topic. To book them for your next meeting, convention or workshop, please email info@fitforexpecting.com.   

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