What do you know about postpartum mental health?
Having a baby is a miraculous and love filled time in your life.
You are overwhelmed with a variety of emotions. Every time a new visitor comes to visit you and your newborn you are overcome with a different feeling, mostly happiness. However, there are also times when you are feeling anything but happy. Sometimes you feel anxious, depressed and even angry.
So why are you having these negative emotions? Why are you angry one moment, in love the next and then crying your eyes out soon after that? In just under an hour you have cried tears of joy for the blessing you feel regarding your newborn. You have also wanted to throw your husband off the maternity ward balcony. This swing of emotions is easily identified as a post-partum disorder.
It becomes a little more difficult when narrowing down the type of post-partum disorder you may have. It could be post-partum blues, post-partum depression, or post-partum psychosis. And all of these could be accompanied by depression, anxiety, bipolar or obsessive compulsive tendencies.
It is good to understand your symptoms so you can relate those to your doctor. Be specific when describing your symptoms so your doctor can determine if you need medical or mental health treatment. Some physical symptoms can be caused by mental health problems and some mental health issues can be caused by physical problems. Post-baby migraines can lead to depression. Or, post-baby depression can lead to migraines. Figuring out the right treatment plan is very important and the more information your doctor has, the better your treatment plan will be. Working with your doctor will help in avoiding any misdiagnoses.
One of the worst things you can do for yourself and your baby is to remain silent about your symptoms. These are fairly common emotions among women who have just given birth and by telling your doctor, you will be able to realize just how often women feel depressed on some level after giving birth. All post-partum disorders are treatable so you can quickly resume your life of being the best mom you can be.
Postpartum Mental Health
You just don’t feel like yourself. You notice little moments where you are feeling and acting completely different than you normally would. You may cry hard during a commercial on television, get angry at your husband over something that never angered you before, or you may even switch moods rapidly whereas before the baby you were laid back for most of the time. You could be experiencing post-partum blues.
Symptoms of post-partum blues include feeling sad or melancholy, weepy and moody. These symptoms are temporary, however, and only last a few weeks. Also known as the baby blues, women feel sad and irritable for the first week or two after giving birth. The baby blues usually peak after about five to seven days.
There is some research out there now stating that the baby blues are not related to the hormones produce while giving birth. They are claiming that the baby blues are actually just a continuation of a mental illness that was present before the pregnancy began.
The best path to follow when experiencing post-partum blues is to talk to a counselor or your doctor about your emotions. It is also important to take care of yourself by getting the right amount of sleep, exercising and eating healthy. This may be hard to do with an infant but you need to find a way to care for yourself first. You will not be able to be there for your family one hundred percent if you are not getting the right amount of rest and care.
If your symptoms do not subside with two weeks, you may be facing something more like post-partum depression.
You were hoping the baby blues would come and go. Now it has been a month after delivery and you are still feeling extreme emotions for no particular reason. You are sad when you should be happy, angry when you should be calm, or crying for no reason.
Hormones trigger post-partum depression. You feel tired, overwhelmed and can even start to doubt yourself about your abilities to be a good mom. Some women even feel like they have had a loss of identity and may even think they are less attractive than before. These feelings are very common and very treatable.
If you already have a diagnosis of depression or a family history of depression, you may be more apt to get post-partum depression.
There are many screening tools out there to help you determine if you are showing signs of post-partum depression. These do not mean you absolutely have it and don’t need to go to a doctor. In fact, it means just the opposite. If you show symptoms mentioned in the screening tool that is all the more reason you need to see a professional, either your obgyn, your family doctor, or a mental health counselor. Questions related to how often you are feeling sad, anxious or overwhelmed since the baby was born will be presented. Other questions will revolve around your sleep patterns and whether or not you feel like harming yourself or anyone else.
Delayed post-partum depression can happen 18 months or longer after you delivered your baby. It all depends on your hormones. If you start feeling more emotional than ever before but it has been close to two years after your baby was born, it could still be related to post-partum depression and the adjustments your body is making during this time.
If you think your symptoms are getting worse and you are beginning to experience things like hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t really there, you may have a different type of disorder.
Post-partum psychosis can present with symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, irritability, rapid mood swings and paranoia. You may start feeling like everyone is watching how you do as a mother with the fear that your child will be taken away. You may start hearing voices or find it hard to determine if the voices you hear are from inside your head (negative self-talk) or from an outside source (hallucinations). You may also see things that no one else can see and your mood swings may be so extreme you are not able to care for your child.
Post-partum psychosis can begin within a month of delivery of a child and the sooner a woman can be diagnosed, the better. This disorder needs immediate attention from a doctor in order to get you feeling better and back on track as soon as possible.
Thoughts of harming the baby are also signs of this disorder. Some say they come out of nowhere and if untreated they only get worse. Many women don’t want to be labeled “psychotic” even if it is associated with hormones after delivery. The stigma is stopping many women from getting the help they need. By being honest and addressing your symptoms with your doctor, you are helping to eliminate this stigma.
Postpartum Bipolar Disorder
Some women are diagnosed with bipolar disorder for the first time after they have given birth. Hormones and other stressors may trigger manic or depressive or both states of mind.
Some of the symptoms that can be seen in post-partum bipolar disorder include little need for sleep, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, overconfidence and impulsiveness. These can be contrasted with severe depression and extreme crying episodes. One week you may be crying and find it hard to get out of bed and the very next week you can’t sleep at all and just want to act out your supermom duties of cleaning, cooking, sewing, washing, and being the best wife ever. However, you are not being the best wife ever; you are having a manic episode.
During the periods of mania your decision making skills lean towards the riskier side, which can make it dangerous for you and the baby if left untreated. And when you are depressed, you feel really depressed, like sadder than ever before and you tell yourself negative thoughts and make yourself feel guilty for not being a better mom. Here’s the thing, you are a great mom, you just need attention and medical help in dealing with these mood swings.
Post-partum bipolar can sometimes be misdiagnosed because doctors aren’t as focused on any hypomanic symptoms immediately after a woman gives birth. They focus on the depressive symptoms and therefore fall into the post-partum depression category. This may be because new moms may only see the depressive side of bipolar as the problem. When they are manic they feel great and get a lot done. It’s when they are depressed and spend most of their time crying is when they are most likely to admit there is a problem.
One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your baby is to be honest with your doctor. Tell the doctor all of your symptoms so you can get the correct diagnosis. Take family members with you so they can confirm your symptoms and offer further information regarding your issues.
Postpartum Eating Disorders
Women who are giving birth can experience a range of emotions that can trigger an eating disorder or cause the onset of one.
Changes in body shapes are hard for some women to accept.
Occasionally, a woman can feel a disconnect from her baby due to the emotions she may feel when she realizes the birth of the baby can cause body shape changes such as a caesarian section or breast feeding. Parts are sagging that never sagged before. Some parts have increased and some decreased. You may have stretch marks in parts that no swimsuit will cover up. These are outcomes of the pregnancy that you cannot prepare for and for some women, the changes become overwhelming.
Even if your partner is being super nice and showing you love no matter what changes your body has gone through, you still have that nagging negative voice telling you it is not good enough. Don’t listen to that voice. That voice is wrong and listening to it only leads to mental health issues. Believing that little voice can lead to severe disordered eating problems.
Pregnancy and post-pregnancy can trigger a relapse for those suffering with eating disorders such as bulimia nervosa and anorexia. Bulimia nervosa is diagnosed among people who go on eating binges and then once they are done eating everything they can find, they vomit the food back up. This is so dangerous because the acid that comes up along with the food damages the esophagus lining as well as rots the teeth. Anorexia is diagnosed in those who restrict the amount of food they eat throughout the day. It becomes an obsession for them to either not eat or eat very few calories. When the body becomes malnourished, the organs can shut down and stop working all together. Both of these types of eating disorders can lead to death.
Psychological stress after having a baby has been reported to trigger eating disorders such as binge eating disorder as well as bulimia nervosa. Binge eating disorder is similar to bulimia except vomiting after does not happen. Instead, a person with binge eating disorder eats extreme amounts of food and when done, experiences extreme feelings of guilt and shame. They also feel as if they have lost complete control and could not stop eating even if they wanted to.
All eating disorders are treatable and many women every day, even those who have just had children, are getting help for their issues with food. If you are having any of these problems, tell someone. There is a tremendous amount of help out there and once you get treatment, you can resume enjoying being a new mother.
If you find yourself suffering from any of the post-baby mental health issues, do not be afraid to seek help.
There are many resources to help you cope with the changes you are experience with both your body and your mental health. Psychotherapy and even medication may be necessary for some. Being the best mother you can be is the top priority and if that means you may need to seek help for symptoms you are having, then that is what you need to do. You will be so much happier after receiving treatment and your entire family can have a great time experiencing the joy of a newborn.