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by Ronald Rosenberg, Deborah Greening, and James Windell
Da Capo Press, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Dec 29th 2004

Conquering Postpartum Depression

According to the authors, about 4 out of 5 new mothers suffer "the baby blues" but 10-17% experience clinical postpartum depression.  For some women, the depression is completely unexpected, because they assumed that being a mother would be a wonderful and enriching experience from the start.  For others, they fear that they will become depressed because other family or friends have become gone through it after giving birth.  Often it is very difficult to find reliable information about the nature of the problem, so Conquering Postpartum Depression is a welcome addition to the resources available for people at risk for mental illness. 

The "Authors' Note" explains that Rosenberg, Greening and Windell have a great deal of expertise about postpartum depression.  The book is written clearly using fairly simple language and is structured in a straightforward way.  Part one is on the risk for depression, part two is on getting a comprehensive assessment, and part three is on getting treatment.  The book is full of short descriptions of cases of women who have experienced postpartum depression, which publishers seem to think makes it easier for readers to understand the information in the book.  It explains the basic facts about the illness, dispelling common myths and making clear the difference between the ordinary emotional highs and lows that come with the experience of being a new mother and the more serious difficulties of post-natal depression.  It further explains the relation between depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Reassuringly, it points out that postpartum psychosis is extremely rare

The authors provide plenty of tests and checklists to assess whether you may be suffering from postpartum depression, and they give many lists of factors that put one at greater risk for suffering the disorder.  They divided up the risk factors into the biological, the psychological and the social.  There is nothing especially surprising in these pages; for example, a family history of psychiatric disorders puts one at greater risk for postpartum depression.  It is a little startling that those who use fertility treatments are more likely to get postpartum depression, but when you think about it, it makes sense that it would bring more anxiety around pregnancy and successful motherhood.  It is also a little alarming that shortened hospital stays, which are the norm for births these days, place mothers at greater risk for depression. 

Conquering Postpartum Depression is quite reassuring about the success of treatments for the disorder.  It recommends a biopsychosocial approach, combining medication, psychotherapy, and group work along with improving one's family and social network, and gives cheering information about the low risk associated with passing on psychiatric medication through breast milk. 

 

© 2004 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.