Awareness about postpartum depression and postpartum mood disorders is becoming more prevalent, and for good reason. 10-15% of women will suffer from some form of Postpartum Mood Disorder sometime in the weeks, up to the first year, following the birth of their baby. Some of the risk factors for postpartum depression include a personal or family history of depression, a previous experience with postpartum depression with another child, stressful life circumstances during pregnancy and/or after your birth, having a baby with health issues, struggles with breastfeeding, or a lacking support system. Even without these risk factors, the physical affects of the drop in hormones after birth, sleep deprivation, and the emotional adjustment to life with a new baby can all play a part, making any woman at risk for PPD regardless of circumstance or history.
Knowing the symptoms of this common issue will not only help you become more aware of how you may be coping during postpartum, but also to realize signs and symptoms in new mothers around you; after all: it takes a Village, in all respects of raising a child. The good news is, PPD is manageable and treatable through counselling, medication, and support.
Below are the different postpartum mood disorders to look out for:
The hormones that were once strong and active as you grew your child, drastically plummet after birth. Baby blues can sometimes be described as a very intense PMS experience, causing you to be teary and emotional, anxious, sad, and irritable. Baby blues usually peaks around day 4 or 5, can last a few hours or days, and generally subsides around 2 weeks postpartum.
Postpartum depression symptoms can occur at any point after delivery, but typically emerge within the first weeks-3 months after delivery, and at any point during the first year of your baby's life. Symptoms include depression feelings or sadness, tearfulness, a disinterest in everyday activities, strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness, excessive tiredness and interrupted sleep, a loss of appetite, weakened ability to concentrate, or suicidal thoughts. Panic attacks or persistent anxiety may accompany depressive symptoms.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Symptoms of Postpartum OCD usually involve intrusive, repetitive thoughts that are negative in nature. These thoughts will often appear out of nowhere, and can be persistent and frightening. Other symptoms include irrational thoughts related to the new baby, fear based compulsions such as obsessive cleaning, repeatedly checking to see if baby is safe and breathing, counting, reorganizing, or any other compulsive actions that are out of character for the mother. The mother may take extreme precautions to keep her newborn safe, which is usually accompanied by fear of being left alone to care for the infant.
Postpartum anxiety is characterized by pervasive thoughts that don't come and go like typical fears or worries usually do. Symptoms include irrational thoughts that something terrible is going to happen, extreme vigilance to protect baby, or avoidance of certain situations for fear of what may happen. Physical symptoms may also be present, including queasiness or stomach ache, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, loss of appetite, or sleepiness
Postpartum psychosis is rare, and usually presents itself quickly after birth, within 24-48 hours, up to 2 weeks postpartum. Signs of psychosis include a dramatic onset of manic behaviours such as extreme depressive or elated feelings, erratic behaviour or delusional thoughts about the baby, disorientation, or auditory hallucinations suggesting harm to either the infant or the mother.
Mental Health Services, Courtenay: 250.331.8524
Public Health, Courtenay: 250.331.8520
Crisis Line and Phone Counselling:
Vancouver Island, 24 Hour Crisis Line: 1.888.494.3888
Pacific Postpartum Support Society: 1.855.255.7999