Having a baby is supposed to be the most blissful time in a new mom’s life. She brings her sweet cherub into the world with flower petals in a milk bath. So how come she feels irritable, anxious, sad, moody, and extra tired? For a lot of new moms, the second situation is their normal. These can be symptoms of Postpartum Blues, or Baby Blues. The Postpartum Blues affect 50-80 percent of mothers in the first two weeks postpartum. While these moms may experience mild negative changes in their mood, it is not considered a psychiatric disorder.
But what happens when these symptoms don’t resolve within a couple of weeks? If a new mother is experiencing excessive Baby Blues symptoms or they last longer than about 14 days, she may have Postpartum Depression.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) affects 13 percent of mothers in the first year postpartum (although that number may be higher due to a lack of moms reporting to their doctors). Women who think they may have PPD should talk with their doctor and seek immediate help. While their symptoms include Baby Blues symptoms, moms may also feel excessive guilt, sadness, worthlessness, panic attacks, insomnia, and hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness).
What to Look For
The most important indicators of PPD are active suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts with a plan), passive suicidal ideation, and intrusive thoughts of hurting the baby or self. Basically, if you are having thoughts about “floating away on a cloud” or going to sleep and just not waking up, these can be a sign of PPD. These three symptoms need immediate psychiatric evaluation. A physician will be able to determine if the new mom should seek therapy, be put on medication, or even hospitalized.
Most women have heard of Baby Blues or PPD, but what about Postpartum Psychosis? Postpartum Psychosis affects 0.01 percent of mothers in the first three months postpartum. (Again, statistics may be higher, as women may not always report their symptoms.) The symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis include agitation, delusions, disorganized behavior, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations. These can be severe and are considered a psychiatric emergency. Women with Postpartum Psychosis often need hospitalization.
It’s important to remember that getting the appropriate help is what is best for the new baby and mom. No one should feel alone or be afraid to ask for help when going through a monumental, life-changing event. With the help of a professional and a support group, a mother can make a full recovery and get back to enjoying her new and fulfilling (yet still exhausting) role of motherhood.
If you (or someone you love) are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to one of these organizations for help:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7: 1-800-273-8255 (or, from overseas: 010-800-273-8255)
- Crisis Text Line (U.S. only): Text HOME to 741741
- Postpartum Support International HelpLine: 1-800-944-4773(4PPD)
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