Postpartum Mood Disorders
Pregnancy and childbirth are major events in a woman’s life and bring about a wide range of physical and emotional changes. Life with a new baby can be thrilling and exciting, but a woman may also experience feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear or confusion. No matter how prepared a woman is, or how much she looked forward to her pregnancy and the birth of her baby, this time may include some unexpected “lows.” These confusing emotions are postpartum conditions classified as: Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis.Baby Blues
The most common and least severe reaction, Baby Blues occur in the days right after delivery. Most new mothers experience this feeling of “let down” after childbirth. Symptoms may include sadness and weepiness for no apparent reason, irritability, frustration and moodiness, difficulty concentrating and feeling dependent on others. Symptoms of the blues usually disappear on their own within one to two weeks.Postpartum Depression
At least one in 10 new mothers experiences postpartum depression. Symptoms can begin during pregnancy, right after delivery or appear gradually anytime during the first year. A woman may have postpartum depression if her feelings of sadness, fear or confusion do not go away within three weeks after giving birth. Although postpartum depression does not take the same form in every woman, all of the symptoms can be equally upsetting and often leave the woman feeling ashamed, guilty and isolated.
Symptoms of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety may include:
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should contact your health care provider.
Postpartum psychosis is the least common but most severe type of postpartum mood disorder (one to two cases per 1,000 births).
A woman with postpartum psychosis may experience:
If any of these apply to you, get help right away.
Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention because of the immediate risk of self-harm or harm to the baby.
Postpartum mood disorders can affect any childbearing woman regardless of age, income, culture or education. The following risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing a postpartum mood disorder:
The exact cause of postpartum mood disorders is unknown. Suspected causes include hormonal imbalances, stress and isolation. Researchers suggest that rapid changes in levels of hormones during pregnancy and after birth may have a strong effect on the moods of women. Thyroid levels may also drop sharply after giving birth, causing symptoms that feel like depression. A simple thyroid test can tell if this condition is causing depression.
If you believe you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, it is important that you talk with your healthcare provider. All of the symptoms, from mild-to-severe, are temporary and treatable with skilled professional help and support.
What You Can Do
Postpartum Depression Organizations
Education and Support
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