Some Facts About Postpartum Depression (and Other Postpartum Mood Disorders)
May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, declared by Postpartum Support International, a national support group for mothers and families who are experiencing more than just a hard time after the birth of their baby. There is a range of disorders that a woman can experience during this time. Many people don't realize that there is more than just postpartum depression that can affect a new mother. Below is a list of the different disorders that a woman can experience and some information about them.
Baby Blues is something that occurs in most women, up to 80%, in the first few days after having a baby. It normally lasts around 2 days, and can be seen as mood swings, anxiety, feelings of dependency, and lack of concentration. Stress and exhaustion, can increase the severity of the symptoms. Along with these two, it is thought that the sudden drop of the hormone progesterone at birth can cause many women to experience this. This should get better on its own.
Postpartum Depression is said to affect up to 20% of women, but according to the latest CDC statistic, the number in the United States has dropped to about 11.5% as of 2012, and is the most common postpartum mood disorder seen. It can be manifested in the following ways, but is not limited to them:
- Sadness and crying
- Feelings of guilt
- Fatigue and sleep problems (either sleeping all the time or insomnia)
- Lack of concentration, forgetfulness
- Loss of libido, lack of interest in anything
- Weight gain or weight loss, changes in appetite
- Difficulty in focusing, reduced ability to make decisions
- Development of phobias or unreasonable fears
- Excessive anxiety
- Sense of hopelessness
- Lack of confidence with the baby or lack of feelings towards the baby
Many times, women who have postpartum depression will feel like they are the only ones who are going through this or that no one understands what they are feeling.
Some risk factors could be the following:
- Previous personal or family history of depression
- Previous cases of PMS
- Major life events
- Lack of a support system
- Thyroid issues
About 10% of women can experience anxiety in the postpartum period. It can be alone, or together with postpartum depression. Some signs are constant worry, inability to sit still, and worry that something will happen to the baby. Risk factors include previous personal or family history of anxiety or depression, as well as a thyroid imbalance.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Approximately 3-5% of women will experience obsessive-compulsive disorder during postpartum. Many times, these persistent thoughts or mental pictures can scare or disturb them, including thoughts of hurting the baby. A mother may be afraid to be alone with the child, or be hyper-vigilant of the baby. A personal or family history of anxiety or OCD behaviors can increase the risk of postpartum OCD.
Postpartum Post Traumatic-Stress Disorder
Postpartum PTSD would typically come after a traumatic birth at which there was an actual or perceived threat of death or serious injury or personal integrity. This happens in about 9% of women, and can happen after a cord prolapse, unplanned cesarean, an assisted vaginal birth, feeling powerless during the birth, lack of support, or for women who have experienced previous trauma, such as sexual assault. Some symptoms include, but are not limited to the following:
- Anxiety or panic attacks.
- Flashbacks of event
- Avoidance of stimuli of the event
- Feeling detached
Sometimes, this can be covered up with other symptoms, such as eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, or self mutilation..
Postpartum Psychosis is very rare, about 1-2 women out of 1,000 births, but can be the most extreme. It can come on suddenly, usually within the first couple of weeks postpartum. The symptoms can be scary and can include the following:
- Being delusional or having strange beliefs
- Difficulty communicating
- Decreased need for, or inability to sleep
- Rapid mood swings
There is a risk of about 5% of women who experience this committing suicide, and 4% infanticide. Women with a family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or a personal history of psychosis or bipolar disorder are at a greater risk of postpartum psychosis.
Treatment is available for these and it is important to get help as soon as possible, especially with postpartum psychosis. It is important to note that some of these may be present during pregnancy as well. If you feel like you or someone you know is experiencing any of these, please don't be afraid to speak up. Know also that it is not your fault, you are not a bad parent, and you are not alone.
Resources for information and help
Please contact one of these resources for more information.