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Mon, May 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM

Depression in women: unexpected causes and what you can do to help

“Many people struggle with depression. It is not a sign of weakness. Don’t worry about being singled out for not being a good wife or a good mother. Treatment will help you engage in life.”

Depression doesn't discriminate. It can strike women of all ages and at any life stage. But, it frequently can be triggered by stressful life events, such as having a baby or going through menopause. Psychiatrist Rachel Pope explains some causes of depression in women, plus what you can do about it.

Post-partum depression

Dr. Pope explains that it’s not uncommon for women to struggle with the physical body changes, plus the stress of a crying baby and not knowing how to respond. 

“Prior to the birth she was the only one who could take care of the baby because it was inside her body. Afterward, she must share the responsibility, and she’s tired. Everybody’s tired.”

It's ok and you are normal.

A depressed new mom can fear that her feelings mean she doesn’t love her baby or that she is not happy with her baby. Dr. Pope reassures that feeling depressed doesn’t mean you don’t love a new baby and it is normal to feel guilty. 

“The important thing is to be able to bond with the baby. Depression makes it more difficult to bond. It’s important for the whole family that Mom gets treatment.”

Menopausal depression

Menopause is another time in a woman’s life that can bring on a bout of depression. That’s because women may experience grief at coming to the end of her childbearing years, even if she no longer wants to have children. A hysterectomy also can trigger sadness. 

“Any depression makes us feel irritable and agitated. We often take it out on our families. Women want to take care of their families and by taking better care of themselves, they are then better able to care for their family.”

Why it’s important to seek help

 Depression can affect people not only mentally but also physically. It causes stress on the body and the brain, potentially worsening any existing health problems. 

“That why it’s so important to make sure depression is treated so that all issues can be addressed."

Dr. Pope offers these suggestions to help avoid depression:

  • Have a good support system in place
  • Get out and socialize
  • Interact with people
  • Laugh often
  • Find hobbies and activities you enjoy
  • Get enough sleep
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Don’t overindulge in alcohol or other substances
  • Be active

If depression does affect you, don't hesitate to seek help.

Speak to your family doctor who may refer you to a mental health professional. 

Dr. Pope’s office is located at 38 Rowe Drive, next to Marshall Medical North. Office hours are 8 am – 5 pm Monday – Thursday and 8 am – noon on Fridays. She can be reached at (256) 571-8717. 

If you feel suicidal or like you may hurt yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately. 

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