Maternal Health and Well-Being - Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
Bringing home your new baby can be quite an adjustment. It is common for women to be overwhelmed by a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from euphoric baby bliss to dark depression.
The "baby blues" is a broad term used to desribe general moodiness beginning shortly after birth.The symptoms of the "baby blues" include sadness, feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, anxious, restless, and irritable. These feelings may last a couple of weeks, but should disappear on their own.
A new mom might feel guilty for having these feelings, but it is perfectly normal as 50-80% of women experince such feelings. During this time, be sure to take good care of yourself and ask for and accept help from others.
If your "baby blues" persist after a couple of weeks, you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling very tired
- Sleep disturbances (insomnia or excessive)
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Feeling hopeless
- Frequent crying
- Loss of appetite
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
- Overconcern or underconcern for the baby
- Not bonding with the baby
- Confusion about your feelings towards the baby
Postpartum depression is usually a temporary illness that can be treated with support, therapy, and/or medication if necessary. Many women feel ashamed of their feelings and may be afraid to seek help, so it is important that the people around them recognize such symptoms and aid in getting proper treatment. If you feel any of the above symptoms speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
This is a severe medical emergency and needs immediate attention.
Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis include:
- Rapid mood swings
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Bizarre behavior
Postpartum psychosis is rare (1 or 2 new moms in 1,000). Because of the loss
of reality and paranoia, it is important to separate the mom and baby and seek
immediate medical attention.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
While no one can answer this question for sure, research has discovered a number of factors that could contribute to the above mentioned conditions.
- The dramatic change in hormone levels that occurs during and after a pregnancy
- Sleep deprivation
- Psychologocal stress of motherhood
- Previous depression
- Family history of depression or bipolar illness
All new moms experience a change in hormones and lack of sleep, so why do some women experience the blues and depression while others do not? There are certain red flags to watch for to know if you or someone you care about is at a greater risk for experiencing depression after delivery.
- Prior postpartum depression
- Depression during pregnancy
- Personal or family history of depression
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Complications during pregnancy or childbirth
- Perterm birth
- Abrupt weaning
- Unsupportive or no partner
- History of severe PMS
- Social isolation
- Experiencing multiple or stressful life events
- History of childhood abuse/trauma
- Substance abuse
Now what? If you believe you or someone you care about might be suffering from any of the above mentioned conditions contact a medical professional as soon as possible. Postpartum depression is very treatable, but it is important to know that other conditions can mimic that of depression. A thyroid imbalance often has the same symptoms as depression and should be ruled out before beginning treatment for postpartum depression.
To read more about women's mental health, click here.
For additional information please visit these websites or call:
www.postpartumny.org or 631-422-2255
www.postpartum.net or 805-967-7636
www.postpartumstress.com or 610-525-7527
www.pregnancyandbabies.org or 518-426-1153
New York State Department of Health