Dr. Megan Spencer is a clinical psychologist at Dakota Family Services. She is passionate about working with individuals and their families and highly values the therapeutic relationship. Dr. Spencer enjoys helping people better understand themselves and their psychological functioning. She looks forward to working with anyone who is looking to better understand and/or improve themselves or their children and families. Her practice includes diagnostic and psychological evaluations and individual cognitive behavioral therapy.
Tim Unsinn: Welcome to Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services, an outpatient behavioral health clinic located in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo, North Dakota. In this podcast, I will talk with our experts about understanding and nurturing our mental health and wellness. I'm your host, Tim Unsinn. Join me each episode as we explore the intricacies of our minds, decrease the stigma of mental illness, learn practical tips for managing our mental health and well-being, and recognize when it's time to ask for help. Join me now to mind your mind.
TU: Welcome to this episode of Mind Your Mind. Our guest is Dr. Megan Spencer. Dr. Spencer is a clinical psychologist and provides diagnostic and psychological evaluations and CBT. Dr. Spencer, great to have you on Mind Your Mind. The topic is postpartum depression. However, before we get to the topic, let's talk about why you do what you do. Why is your work important to you?
Dr. Megan Spencer: Hi, so yes, my work is very important to me for a simple reason, and that is, I love people and I love watching them understand themselves and the journey of their lives.
TU: Great answer. You always have great answers. This is too easy. All right. Postpartum depression. What is it, for those of us that may not totally understand it? And what are the symptoms?
MS: So first, postpartum depression specifically is a host of symptoms that a woman experiences either during pregnancy or following the first four weeks following delivery. And so I think it's really important to know that, statistically, about 6% of women experience a major depressive episode during pregnancy or within the first year of pregnancy. And so when we talk about symptoms of postpartum depression, they can also be very much related to a major depressive episode. So I just want to make that known so that people can think about that as a whole, too. But if we think about, specifically, postpartum depression, yes, it is that time during pregnancy or following the first four weeks of delivery. And so what some of those symptoms are going to look like or are extreme difficulty in day-to-day functioning. So the reason that I use the word extreme is because, in all reality, childbirth is still a difficult process and no matter how it's actually followed through with, it's difficult for the woman.
MS: And so what that means is you're going to have some exhaustion. You're going to have some pain, there's going to be some healing that occurs. And so, the "extreme" means that, aside from what we would typically expect, right? Some of those things, like I just mentioned, but extreme is a complete inability. The woman might feel that she just literally cannot get out of bed. She cannot make that bottle. She cannot go to that child when they are screaming or crying. She cannot groom or shower or take care of herself in the way that we would expect, you know, an individual to, even following childbirth. So that's that extreme, really out of the ordinary response. Some other symptoms are going to be insomnia. And so you would think that sleeping is going to be disrupted, but this is going to be more of a complete inability to sleep.
MS: It also could be bouts of crying where you just, all of a sudden you're crying and you have no idea. Loss of interest. So just because you have a child, doesn't mean you lose interest in the things that you love. And so this is going to be kind of a shift from that, that things that you would normally want to do or really enjoy, just aren't fun anymore and you don't want to do them. On a more severe level, this could look like, you have no desire to live, or you really are having some pretty bad thoughts about the infant or not wanting the infant to live. And those are some pretty serious thoughts, meaning something far more serious. Some other symptoms could be anxiety, guilt, fear that just does not seem to go away. It's just this reoccurring feeling that no matter what you do, you can't get rid of it. You can't make it better. Those are some symptoms of postpartum depression that would definitely require some more attention.
TU: With all those symptoms, what are some of the causes?
MS: There are some definite causes. Some pretty important ones is going to be a past history of major depressive episodes. So a woman who may have experienced depression on a clinical level, previous to pregnancy, that is going to give it just that statistically higher chance. Another one could be a significant family history of depression, or major depressive episodes, or even a history of postpartum depression that did remit. But it could also be, in terms of loss of social supports or having nobody around you that you can reach out to, to talk to, to get help from. It could be, having marriage or financial or relationship problems can increase that risk. If we think about hormones, and we think about thyroid; hormone levels tend to abruptly return to normal within 24 hours following childbirth. And so hormone imbalance can cause some symptoms that may look like depression, also thyroid. So thyroid following birth could be imbalanced, in a sense, to cause some of those symptoms that may look like depression. And so between kind of that social piece, and what's around you, and past history, and then some of those medical reasons could all be causes of why an individual may experience postpartum depression.
TU: So what do you do if you think you have postpartum depression or concerned with this?
MS: Absolutely. And so I think the first point of contact is, if you do have someone there, whether it's a partner, a spouse, a friend, or a family member, reach out to them right away. Enlist someone to help you through this process and then reach out for help. And so reach out for help means primary care, OBGYN would be a great point of contact, to talk to them about how you're feeling and then to also get those, the thyroid and hormone check to make sure that isn't the cause or isn't contributing. And if those are not the cause or contributing, and/or therapy or reaching out in terms of medication management therapy. Individual therapy; support groups is also another form of therapy. So really it's about starting the conversation and reaching out.
Tim Unsinn: Dr. Megan Spencer has been our guest on Mind Your Mind, talking postpartum depression. And as we wrap up another episode of Mind Your Mind, I have a final question for you, Dr. Spencer. And that is what do you do personally, to mind your mind?
MS: For me personally, it's about being outdoors and being with my husband and my child. So really it's doing whatever we can to spend time together. And now that the weather's nice getting out to our Lake and just having as much family time as we can.
TU: Thank you so much for being on Mind Your Mind. We appreciate your time and talent and insights. So thank you.
MS: Thank you.
TU: Thank you for joining us for Mind Your Mind, a podcast presented by Dakota Family Services. You can't have health without behavioral health. Remember to mind your mind. For more information, links to additional resources, contact information, and much more go to dakotafamilyservices.org.
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