#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, September 11th, 2023 – Postpartum depression, part 1: definition, prevalence, and risk factors

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic faculty member April Dominick  kicks off part 1 of a series on postpartum depression. In this episode, she discusses the differences between postpartum depression and other PP mood disorders. She then highlights the prevalence of and risk factors for developing postpartum depression.

In her next episode, she will focus on screening for and how to communicate with folks who may have postpartum depression.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.

If you’re looking to learn more about our live pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy courses or our online physical therapy courses, check our entire list of continuing education courses for physical therapy including our physical therapy certifications by checking out our website. Don’t forget about all of our FREE eBooks, prebuilt workshops, free CEUs, and other physical therapy continuing education on our Resources tab.

Are you looking for more information on how to keep lifting weights while pregnant? Check out the ICE Pelvic bi-weekly newsletter!


00:00 INTRO

Hey everyone, Alan here. Before we get into today’s episode, I’d like to take a moment to introduce our show sponsor, Jane. If you don’t know about Jane, Jane is an all-in-one practice management software with features like online booking, scheduling, documentation, and a PCI-compliant payment solution. The time that you spend with your patients and clients is very valuable, and filling out forms during their appointment time can quickly take away from the time that you all have together. That’s why the team at Jane has designed online intake forms, that your patients can complete from the comfort of their own homes. And to help them remember to fill out their forms, Jane has your back with a friendly email reminder sent 24 hours before their appointment. This means they arrive ready to start their appointment and you can arrive ready to help. Jane’s online intake forms are fully customizable to ensure you’re collecting everything you need ahead of time, whether that’s getting a credit card on file, insurance billing details, or a signed consent form. You can build out your intake forms from scratch or use templates from Jane’s template library and customize it further to meet your practice needs. If you’re interested in learning more, head on over to jane.app.com. Use the code icePT1MO at sign up to receive a one month grace period on your new account. Thanks everyone. Enjoy today’s episode of the PT on Ice daily show.


Good morning, everyone. Dr. April Dominick here from the Ice Pelvic Division, and today we’re gonna talk about postpartum depression. This is a series, so in part one, we will define it, we’ll talk about its prevalence, and we’ll go through some risk factors for developing this condition. But before we dive in, we have some exciting updates from our division. Drum roll, please, or Harp glissando. So if you didn’t catch our big news that dropped on Thursday of last week in our pelvic newsletter, we now have an eight week online level two course that will drop in spring 2024. We are so excited for this course. It is loaded with fun material. So we’ll talk about pelvic pain syndromes. We’ll go through post-op rehab for the pelvic and abdominal surgery that someone may get. We’ll go through some birth prep and talk about all things fertility and infertility. So hop into that course when it becomes available. If the virtual option is not for you or your cup of tea, then I invite you to join us on the road live where we teach all things pelvic health rehab, bridging the gap between the fitness athlete and pelvic health. We’re doing internal exams, external exams. We are talking about core rehab, going through labs that go over diastasis recti, return to the barbell, hopping on the rig, endurance, impact. It is so much fun as well. So when can you catch us live? We have some courses coming up September 23rd and 24th in Scottsdale, Arizona, and October 13th and 14th in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Those classes will be with Dr. Alexis Morgan and Dr. Rachel Moore. Or you can find Dr. Christina Previtt. That’s right, I said doctor. She just earned her PhD and we couldn’t be more proud of her. So Christina and I will be out in the Pacific Northwest in Corvallis, Oregon on October 21st and 22nd. Tons of opportunities for you all to learn with us head over to PTOnIce.com and check out more.


All right, postpartum depression, the topic of the day. Let’s just cut to the chase. We’ll call a spade a spade, pregnancy and parenthood. That is a transformative time. It’s filled to the brim with new challenges when it comes to emotional, physical, mental, and lifestyle changes. We’ll talk about pregnancy, I mean, that’s approximately nine months of physical body alterations that support and nurture the baby. Then we have labor and delivery. That’s an incredible feat. It’s remarkable in the mental and physical strength that is required to get the baby to come out into the world. And then we have postpartum. Voila, the baby has arrived. Now what? So even though the baby may be all that the birthing person has ever dreamed of, it’s gonna come with a lot of emotions, anticipation, joy, maybe even fear. Not to mention the added responsibility of caring for a baby while the birthing individual is functioning on minimal sleep, who knows what’s happening with nutrition, and then there’s an emotional rollercoaster going on. What up, hormones? and all the while that person is trying to heal and recover themselves. All of that can put a person at risk for postpartum mood disorders. We’ll focus on postpartum depression or PPD, but I am going to share other conditions that may look like PPD. There’s a side note here. A lot of the research that I did is on the postpartum parent who identifies as pronouns she, her, hers, or mother. So I’ll be using that terminology for this podcast just based off of the research that I found. So here are three different postpartum mood disorders to include in a differential diagnosis if someone is coming to you postpartum. Number one, we have baby blues. This is gonna be the mild, most mild form of a depressive mood disorder. Then we have postpartum depression. And then our third type is postpartum psychosis, and that’s gonna be the most severe form of depression for postpartum. So let’s unpack baby blues. Due to the hormonal changes that happen immediately postpartum, About 50% of new mothers get the baby blues. That’s a lot. By definition, the baby blues are mood changes that are mild, transient, and self-limited. And that means it’ll resolve on its own and there is minimal medical retreatment required. Someone experiencing baby blues may exhibit signs of tearfulness, sadness, exhaustion, They may be irritable, they may have decreased concentration, mooniness, and decreased sleep. But all of those changes don’t affect the person’s ability to care for the baby or their own daily function. So from a time standpoint for baby blues, the onset and conclusion is like a bell curve. The symptoms come on within two to five days after childbirth, they peak, and then they generally resolve within two weeks of onset. One of the most common complications though of baby blues is the development of postpartum depression. So what is postpartum depression defined as? The DSM-5 defines it as a moderate to severe depressive episode that starts around four weeks post delivery. And this is typically going to require medical intervention. Compared to the baby blues, The big difference is that with postpartum depression, or PPD, symptoms persist for a longer period of time, so they aren’t transient.


If we zoom out, a person with postpartum depression can have changes in feelings, changes in everyday life, and they may even change how they think about their baby. Common symptoms for someone who is experiencing PPD They may have chronic feelings of guilt, feelings of failure as a mother, loss of interest in activities that used to bring them joy, feelings of despair that do interfere with their ADLs, and self-care. They’ll also have unreasonable worries about the child’s health and possibly infanticide or suicidal thoughts. So I wanted to talk about the effects of postpartum depression on the members in the family. So it’s going to put the mother at greater risk for developing depressive episodes in the future. It can also affect the mother and infant bonding, and this has some potential implications if, say, the person is wanting to breastfeed, that may interrupt the success with that just due to the bonding issue. Beyond that, it’s gonna affect the co-parent or the spouse and overall family dynamics. And there is some research showing the effects of postpartum depression and how that may negatively affect the behavioral and emotional development of the child. All right, so we went over baby blues, we went over postpartum depression, I can’t leave this conversation without talking about postpartum psychosis. This is a psychiatric medical emergency. It’s associated with increased suicide and infanticidal risk. It’s rare. The global prevalence of it is about one to two and a half in every 1,000 women. It’s going to emerge during the first few days or weeks of childbirth. And folks with postpartum psychosis will demonstrate rapid shifts in mood swings that are similar to bipolar tendencies. They’ll have a loss of sense of reality. They may experience hallucinations, lack of sleep for several nights, agitation, delusions, and attempts to hurt themselves or the baby. So when you’re meeting with a client, two keys for differentiating between baby blues and postpartum depression is the time since childbirth and severity of symptoms. So with baby blues, symptoms are usually present and gone within the first two weeks. Whereas those symptoms that persist beyond the first few weeks are more in the PPD camp. And then with baby blues, the symptoms are more mild and they don’t affect the daily function of the individual. Whereas with PPD, it is more moderate in symptom nature and it will affect their daily life. So what is the prevalence of postpartum depression? It is one of the most common complications for someone after they give birth. PPD occurs in 15% or one in seven postpartum women. One in seven. These numbers are just representative of those who actually report it. So according to a study done in 2006 by Beck and colleagues, as many as half of PPD in new mothers goes undiagnosed because the individual is not wanting to share this with their family members or to share it with a research study. They wanna protect their own privacy. There are some effects of race as well in terms of prevalence, at least in when postpartum depression hits folks. So African-American and Hispanic mothers reported the onset of PPD within two weeks of delivery versus white mothers who tended to report the onset of PPD later. Region also matters. So geographical region. The prevalence of PPD varies by country. And what we know is that folks from developing countries have a higher prevalence of postpartum depression. Okay, what are the risk factors for postpartum depression? Y’all, there are so many. There were so many that I’m only gonna highlight the ones that came up over and over again that had the greatest impact in the research. So a 2022 literature review of risk factors of PPD identified the following as those that had the most powerful impact on development of PPD. Previous history of depression or psychiatric illness, depressive symptoms during pregnancy, and decreased social and spousal support. So there has been some research done that suggests, hey, if someone has healthy and supportive relationships, that is going to act as a protective mechanism during the prenatal period, specifically for the development of depression as well. There were some other factors, risk factors for PPD. Low socioeconomic status, stressful life events, and obstetrical specific factors like gestational diabetes, negative birth experiences, preterm deliveries, and low birth weight infants. All of these have a profound effect on the development of PPD. There was another systematic review from 2021 that they identified six major risk factors, which some of those we’ve gone over. But there were two in their list that I thought were interesting. One was that a risk factor if you were a pregnant woman who gave birth to boys, and then if you had an epidural anesthesia during childbirth. So I felt like those two were interesting, just side effects or side notes, and they were from a systemic review as well.


Another area of emerging evidence looks at the role of the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, or HPA. So we’re about to get a little nerdy, but I love the brain, I love neuroscience, and I’m a psychology major, so let’s talk about the brain and the endocrine system. So the HPA, or that hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, is a known responder during stress because it regulates physiologic processes such as the immune system and the autonomic nervous system. The HPA releases cortisol in trauma and stress. So if the HPA is not functioning correctly, there’s a poor stress response. I think we can all agree that pregnancy itself and labor and delivery are some pretty extreme stressful and sometimes traumatic events. So during pregnancy, there are higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. Then during the delivery of the placenta, there’s a dramatic fluctuation and drop of estrogen and progesterone. This rapid drop in hormone levels during that immediate postpartum period is a potential stressor and thought to contribute to the onset of depression. There was a 2017 systematic review that found seven out of 21 studies evaluating postpartum blues, and then 15 out of 28 studies evaluating PPD found abnormalities in the HBA axis. And from previous literature, we know that the dysregulation of the HBA axis is present in those with mental illness. So from all that, this is what I want us to think about. A healthy management of stress during pregnancy and postpartum should be a priority. We as rehab providers and medical professionals can have a tremendous impact in offering solutions for stress management like exercise, nutrition, sleep, proper medications. All right, let’s recap.


When working with the postpartum population, one of the most common complications is postpartum depression. It affects 15% of women giving birth. It’s imperative that we’re aware of the different mood disorders that can happen postpartum and the differences between them. We have postpartum blues, very common, affects about 50% of new mothers. It’s mild, it’s transient, doesn’t usually need medical intervention, but we do need to provide some validation and compassion for those individuals. It’s usually resolved by week two from childbirth. Then we have postpartum depression. It’s moderate and severe in symptom nature. It can arise around four weeks post childbirth. It is going to affect daily functions and be present for up to a year postpartum. It will usually require medical intervention. Then we have postpartum psychosis. This is going to be a medical emergency. It’s rare. but the person will present with rapid shifts in emotions, maybe have hallucinations, and the lives of the birthing person and infant are at risk. We as PTs play a tremendous role in identifying postpartum depression and other mood disorders. We can refer them to their physician, their mental health providers, and this can be helpful for someone if we think it’s a medical emergency and we’re suspecting postpartum psychosis. Understanding risk factors for PBD can be impactful when it comes to managing and treating it. Some of those major risk factors we can ID during pregnancy as well. So, hey, we’re treating someone who is pregnant and we notice, oh, they have a lack of social or spousal support. They’ve told you they have a previous history or are having some depressive episodes during pregnancy. They have a lower SES or increased stressful life events besides pregnancy and delivery. Or they may say, hey, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. What I want to point out, these risk factors are modifiable. So in my upcoming podcast in this postpartum depression series, we’ll discuss screening for PPD in the clinic, ways to communicate with a client who may be suffering from PPD, Then our final episode will cover resources, support, and the effects of exercise in treating PPD. Cheers, y’all.

19:53 OUTRO

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