Ask The Expert: Postpartum Depression With Dr. Milena Newhook
It’s been a minute since we’ve had an Ask The Expert feature, but we’ve been talking a lot on our platform about postpartum care in our country and campaigning for better. A large part of postpartum care is mental health. We’ve dealt with it ourselves and have many friends who’ve had varying degrees of postpartum depression.
So this month’s Ask an Expert is all about Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Blues (aka “Baby Blues”). We know that the discussions on this topic that we have in this community are just the tip of the iceberg, but change only happens is we continue talking. How we move forward is raising awareness of this often untreated condition. The statistics are staggering- something like 60-80% of new mothers can be affected by postpartum depression.
Our good friend Dr. Suzie Chang, with Katy Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, has connected us with some of the best in the medical community and through Suzie we’ve had the pleasure of syncing up with board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Milena Newhook, DO. Milena is also a fellow mother and Texan who practices near the Katy area. We’re honored that she is lending us a little bit of her expertise to touch upon some aspects of this serious and important topic.
Can you give us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Dr. Milena Newhook and I have been an adult psychiatrist for over twelve years. I work at a private practice in the Memorial area of Houston.
What I most enjoy about my job is watching how someone becomes empowered when given the right tools, whether those tools are medications, coping skills, or emotional support.
I am a mother to two wonderful girls and have been married for twelve years. On the weekends, you will find me running outdoors, playing in the back yard with the kids and cooking out in the patio with friends and family.
Please tell us why this particular topic is so important to you?
Mental illness in motherhood has been an especially interesting subject for me after becoming a mother myself and realizing what an emotional and physical roller coaster it can be, from the time you start thinking about having a baby until, well, let’s be honest, until your children have their own children and even longer.
Helping mothers be their best and allowing them to care for their families in the way they want to is what I find most rewarding about treating women in my practice.
What is Postpartum Blues (aka “Baby Blues”)? How does it differ from Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum blues (aka “Baby Blues”) develops a few days after birth and typically resolves on its own within two weeks of delivery. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, irritability, crying spells, anxiety, and sadness.
On the other hand, Postpartum Depression also may include irritability, crying spells, anxiety and sadness, but lasts longer than 2 weeks. Postpartum Depression may also include thoughts of guilt re: baby and family, thoughts of wanting to harm the baby or yourself, neglect in your own self care, hopelessness, worthlessness, and significant appetite changes. Postpartum depression symptoms are often much more debilitating and cause a significant change in the mother’s level of functioning.
What causes PPD?
No specific cause for Postpartum Depression has been found, however a history of previous depressive episodes and/or a family history of mental illness does increase someone’s risk of developing it.
Other contributing factors for depression in the prenatal and postnatal periods include lack of sleep, hormonal shifts, lack of emotional support and poor stress coping mechanisms.
At what point should someone you seek professional help? Does it have to be a particular kind of doctor?
As a psychiatrist, I place a high degree of importance on the individualization of treatment to meet each patient’s particular needs.
This is especially important in the topic of PPD and PPBlues.
Every woman is different.
Therefore, you should seek help from your primary care doctor, OB/GYN, psychiatrist or therapist as soon as YOU feel something is not right. Go to a doctor that you have a good relationship with.
DO NOT WAIT to discuss the possibility of depressive symptoms with your doctor, as they can help you decide what is a normal change from a debilitating one.
Early diagnosis and treatment is very important, as sometimes it can help prevent it from worsening/progressing as well.
If you do end up having this condition, your doctor can help get you to a psychiatrist that can get you the treatment you need.
In general, Postpartum Depression is treated with both medications (ie: antidepressants, mood stabilizers, etc) and psychotherapy. Some antidepressants have been found safe in pregnancy and lactation and therefore may improve the mother’s quality of life.
Again, each case is treated individually as no two women are alike.
Please share some of your thoughts on how tough parenting can be (whether as a new parent or as a parent of older children) and your own strategy that keeps you going.
Most parents would say the toughest ‘job’ they ever had was being a parent. Every day poses different conflicts: placing a young child in time out can be heart wrenching for a parent, but not disciplining a misbehaving child may lead to continuous acting out. Leaving your child with a caretaker for the first time may lead to feelings of guilt but having your child not be familiar with other adults may lead to a hard time adjusting to social settings in the future.
The important thing to remember is that there is no one right answer. Every family must do what works best for their lifestyle and for themselves.
It is also important to care for your own mental health in order to be the best parent you can be. For me, this includes exercising regularly (I have found things become much clearer after a good run!), eating a balanced diet but indulging every once in a while, sleeping as close to 8 hours a night as I possibly can, and making time for date nights with my husband and my friends.
To learn more about Dr. Newhook, you can visit her website at:
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly. Call your doctor. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)