Just become a father? Become a grandmother? Congratulations to you, but please be careful. Its a crucial time for the new mother. Pregnancy and the birth of a child can be a joyous and exciting time, but some women may struggle with their mental health as they transition to motherhood. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder may surface during or after pregnancy. Additionally, birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder or a severe but rare condition called POSTPARTUM DISORDERS or PHSYCHOSIS (PPD) can happen following childbirth.
The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Most new moms experience postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks.
But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.
Postpartum disorders (depression) isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and help you bond with your symptoms.
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth of the baby, but may begin earlier, during pregnancy, or later, up to a year after birth.
PPD signs and symptoms
Depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty in bonding with your baby, distance from husband, family member and friends, loss of appetite or eating much more than usual, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy, reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, intense irritability and anger, fear that you’re not a good mother, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions, restlessness, severe anxiety and panic attacks, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery. The signs and symptoms are severe, i.e confusion and disorientation, obsessive thoughts about your baby, hallucinations and delusions, sleep disturbances, excessive energy and agitation, paranoia, attempts to harm yourself or your baby.
The risk factors associated with the development of postpartum disorders are: cesarean sections or other perinatal or natal complication; past history of psychotic illness, especially past history of anxiety and depression; family history of psychiatric illness, especially mother and sister having postpartum disorder; previous episode of postpartum disorder; stressful life events especially during pregnancy and near delivery; history of sexual abuse; vulnerable personality traits and social isolation/unsupportive spouse.
Taking antidepressant medication may help alleviate the symptoms of PPD and should be combined with ongoing counseling with a therapist trained in issues surrounding childbirth. It is always important for a woman to discuss any potential side effects an antidepressant drug may have on herself or her baby. Studies show that some antidepressant medications have no harmful effects on breastfeeding infants. Psychotherapy alone may also be used to treat PPD. New mothers should be encouraged to talk about their feelings or fears with others. Socializing through support groups and with friends can play a critical role in recovery. Exercise and good nutrition may improve a new mother’s mood and also aid in recovery. Caffeine (while tempting to exhausted new moms) should be avoided because it can trigger anxiety and mood changes.