Postpartum Mood Disorders

Postpartum mood disorders are more common than you may think. Although overall they probably don’t receive enough attention from the general population, postpartum depression has become the most popularly discussed. However, there are five different postpartum mood disorders people may experience after the birth of their baby. Thankfully, doctors and scientists are devoting more time and energy toward understanding mental illness more and more every day, but we still have a long way to go. Most evidence shows that postpartum mood disorders are correlated with the hormonal changes your body will endure, but sometimes life circumstances can play a role is amplifying mood disorders for people. Whatever the reasoning, if you experience any postpartum mood disorder hear me say this: You are not a bad parent, you are capable of caring for your baby, and you can get through this. 

We all need help sometimes… the key is asking for it when we need it. If you find yourself in a rut, or if you see your partner exemplifying any of these symptoms, call your doula, midwife and/or doctor. They will point you in the right direction.

BABY BLUES

Baby blues is classified as a less severe version of postpartum depression, but is still worthy of attention. Approximately 70-80% of people experience baby blues after giving birth. It typically begins within the first few days after bringing baby home, and last no longer than 14 days.

Symptoms:

  • Weepiness or crying for no apparent reason
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia  (even when the baby is sleeping)
  • Sadness
  • Mood changes
  • Poor concentration

Treatment:

  • Take a break from baby – go outside for a little while 
  • Ask for help – with food, cleaning, caring for your newborn
  • Talk about how you are feeling with people you trust and will support you

POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

Postpartum depression is an illness similar to baby blues, but it extends past 14 days, and can begin any time within the first year of baby’s life. If you’re feeling down, blank and non-emotional about anything for longer than 2 weeks, seek professional help… you do not have to suffer alone.

Symptoms:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed consistently
  • Crying excessively and sometimes for no apparent reason
  • Feeling worried or anxious nearly all the time
  • Anger or rage, or thoughts of acting out in anger or rage
  • Persistently doubting your ability to care for your baby / family
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Treatment:

  • Talk to your doctor or midwife if these symptoms begin and last longer than 14 days
  • Depending on your scenario, your doctor will help decide why postpartum depression is affecting you the way that it is and direct you toward proper treatment.

POSTPARTUM OCD

Postpartum OCD is similar in some ways to postpartum depression, but has clear deviants. Obsessive compulsive disorder after having a baby often leads the mother to feel overly fearful and therefore making decisions based on irrational fears.

Symptoms:

  • Consistent, overwhelming fear that the baby will die in their sleep
  • Irrational fear of accidentally harming or killing the baby such as dropping the baby from a high place or accidentally putting them in the oven or microwave and therefore avoiding these things
  • “Seeing” images of the baby dead
  • Fears of the baby choking and not being able to save them
  • Over cleaning your house / not going out for fear of exposure to germs to the baby

Treatment:

  • If you are experiencing irrational fears that are scaring you, talk to someone you trust for comfort and talk to your provider
  • Your provider will be able to diagnose and give you the best treatment, so reach out to them

POSTPARTUM ANXIETY

Of course introducing a baby to your life is going to spark some level of anxiety for almost everyone… but postpartum anxiety is more extreme. 

Symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping / eating (even when baby naps)
  • Inability to focus or sit still
  • Dizziness, hot flashes or nausea 
  • Obsessively worrying about your baby
  • Fearing you will hurt your baby, and these thoughts make you feel physically sick

Treatment:

  • Talk to the people who are close to you about how you’re feeling
  • Talk to your doula, midwife or doctor
  • Consider finding a counselor that you trust and specializes in anxiety care or postpartum mood disorder care

POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS

Postpartum psychosis is the rarest of the postpartum mood disorders affecting only about 1 in every 1000 mothers. It rarely goes unnoticed because it’s symptoms are clear.

Symptoms:

  • Sudden thoughts of throwing the baby or harming it in some way
  • Delusions (beliefs that have no basis in reality)
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
  • “Flat affect,” or a lack of emotional response or blank facial expression
  • Lack of emotional response to the baby
  • Difficulty sleeping beyond the normal interrupted sleep of new motherhood
  • Changes in appetite or eating
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • An inability to bond with baby
  • Thoughts of suicide, or the belief that the baby or the family would be better off without the mother

Treatment: 

  • The only treatment for postpartum psychosis is separation for a time from the baby while the mother can receive professional treatment. Call your doctor if you or someone you know is showing signs of postpartum psychosis. 

YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you don’t have anyone to reach out to, reach out to me. You’re not broken, you’re not bad, you’re just going through something horrible right now — and trust me, it’s worse to do that silently.

Suicide hotline: 1 800 273 8255

My personal phone number: 1 425 478 7247

Love always,

Veronica DeGolier

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