New mothers may experience a range of emotions shortly after giving birth — from overwhelming joy to extreme sadness. Emotions can affect anyone during pregnancy and after giving birth, and just like the onset of emotions do not discriminate, neither does postpartum depression (PPD), which can affect any woman, regardless of her age, ethnicity, marital status or income. PPD is one of the most common medical complications of pregnancy or childbirth. Approximately 1 in 8 mothers in the U.S. report experiencing symptoms of PPD each year, equating to over 500,000 women. While it is common for new mothers to experience a wide range of emotions shortly after giving birth, persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, irritability, and feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness or helplessness could be symptoms of PPD. The exact cause of PPD is unknown. Hormonal changes that occur during and after pregnancy and life stress can contribute to PPD. Women with a history of depression have an increased risk of developing PPD.
Recognizing PPD can be challenging as some new moms may think they have the “baby blues,” which are often characterized by mild symptoms including mood changes, feelings of worry, tearfulness, irritability and sleep difficulties that typically last for a few days or one to two weeks, and do not impact a mother’s ability to care for herself or her family. While PPD persists often with more severe symptoms, it can impact not only the mother but can often extend to children and a partner. Signs and symptoms of PPD include:
- persistent sad mood
- loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- difficulty sleeping
- abnormal appetite
- weight changes
- feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- aches or pains without clear physical cause
- trouble bonding with the new baby
- persistent doubts about the ability to care for the baby
- thoughts about death, suicide or harming oneself or the baby
If you know a mom who seems to be struggling during pregnancy or after childbirth, do not ignore it and hope their symptoms subside; help them get in touch with a doctor right away — she could have PPD, a medical condition that if left untreated, can have serious health effects on both the mom and baby.
Despite its prevalence, it is estimated that approximately 50% of PPD cases may go undiagnosed. This may be due to a lack of awareness of the warning signs, ability to differentiate between PPD and the “baby blues” or because some mothers are embarrassed and do not seek treatment for fear of being judged by their family or friends.
With limited pharmaceutical options available for postpartum depression, new treatments are currently being studied. The SKYLARK study, initiated by Sage Therapeutics Inc., is evaluating the efficacy and safety of an investigational oral medication in women with severe PPD. An investigational medication is a medication that is being tested to determine if it is safe and effective for a specific condition or group of people.
The SKYLARK study is seeking moms experiencing symptoms of PPD for participation in the clinical trial. New mothers who are interested and eligible to participate will receive close monitoring of their postpartum depression symptoms by qualified study nurses and clinicians, under the guidance of the study doctor. Participants will also receive study-related medical care and the assigned investigational oral medication at no cost.
To learn more about postpartum depression, read about the SKYLARK study, or take a screening questionnaire, please visit www.skylarkppdstudy.com.