Postpartum depression – “This is as common as down syndrome” -TERESA M.TWOMEY, JD
You may be surrounded by friends and family, smiling and admiring your newborn, yet you feel a profound loneliness you’ve never felt before… You may feel all you want to do is cry, or scream.
Read my personal story featured on [Postpartum Support International]
You may feel angry and anxious, or even condemn yourself as unfit for motherhood. You may not even want to deal with being a mother…
You are not alone.
Up to 25 percent (that’s 1 in 4!) of women experience postpartum emotional problems.
You are not to blame.
Postpartum depression (PPD) and other postpartum mood disorders are considered diseases, like pneumonia, is a disease.
Would you blame yourself for coughing?
You can’t just control all your feelings, just as you can’t control a cough.
You need and deserve help, just like you need medical care for pneumonia. You know there is hope because countless women have walked this path before you, to recovery. Including myself.
Fortunately, talking about PPD is no longer strictly taboo.
Actor Brooke Shield’s book, Down Came the Rain: My Journey through Postpartum Depression, brought the disorder to the attention of the public, freeing women to come forward, or to ask for help.
Many women are afraid to discuss negative feelings, for fear of being seen as a bad mother, or as “crazy”.
Table Of Contents
- 1 My Story of Postpartum Depression aka “Baby Blues”
- 2 6 Kinds Of Postpartum Mood Disorders That Can Affect Women and How They Care For Their Child
- 3 Baby Blues
- 4 Postpartum Depression Is No Joke
- 5 Postpartum Anxiety
- 6 Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- 7 Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- 8 Postpartum Psychosis
- 9 Risk Factors
- 10 How To Help Someone with Postpartum Depression?
- 11 How Do You Know If You Have Postpartum Depression?
- 12 How Long Can Postpartum Depression Last?
- 13 Postpartum Psychosis Stories
- 14 Recovery from Postpartum Mood Disorders…
- 15 Compiled using these Resources and Best Postpartum Support:
My Story of Postpartum Depression aka “Baby Blues”
For me, personally, I never said a word about the way I was feeling until I became intensely ill.
I had a very bad cold or flu with a fever but no medication was given when I went to see my doctor. Odd right?!
She simply said I was severely sleep deprived and this was causing me to feel like this.
Granted, she said, there are women who don’t know why it hits them or even when… just in my case, she saw the signs…
My doctor ended up prescribing me, SLEEP.
She wrote down on her prescription slip, “sleep 8 hours every night for 4 nights.” I wish I had it to show you.
Prior to meeting with her, though, I had filled out a questionnaire. In that, I had stated I was feeling down. That I felt unhappy. That my moods toward my baby were of unhealthy thoughts… etc.
I honestly didn’t remember even filling that out.
My POC also decided to schedule an appointment with my OB as well.
From there, I had to see this psych to tell them EXACTLY how I was feeling and when did it start.
I just opened up at this point and said everything.
After all was said done and after I got that week of sleep, those feelings disappeared as fast as they appeared!
6 Kinds Of Postpartum Mood Disorders That Can Affect Women and How They Care For Their Child
Postpartum mood disorder is a rather broad term that encompasses a wide array of emotions that women often have after giving birth.
The term is laid out into three subcategories such as:
- Baby blues
- Postpartum depression
- Postpartum psychosis
In the last few years, however, there have been several new categories
- Postpartum anxiety
- Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder
Each group has its own unique set of symptoms that can vary based in intensity and severity.
The least severe case of postpartum depression is the baby blues. Most mothers (50 to 75 percent) will notice they have negative feelings after they give birth. These tend to happen around the fifth day after the baby has been born.
Common symptoms are:
- Crying for no real reason at all
- Mood swings (anxious and irritability)
- Overwhelming feeling
- Changes in sleeping and eating
These symptoms tend to resolve themselves after a couple of weeks. Be sure you get plenty of rest and have a good support system to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Postpartum Depression Is No Joke
PPD is the most common postpartum mood disorder, but anxiety/panic disorders, psychosis, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can also occur.
About 15 percent of all new moms have what’s known as postpartum depression. These symptoms tend to appear several days after delivery or even a year after the birth.
Women with this condition tend to alternate between good and bad days. The symptoms can range from severe to mild, lasting more than two weeks.
Any of these symptoms may be present, and deserve attention from a healthcare professional:
- Helplessness and/or hopelessness
- Inability to feel good or to be comforted
- Withdrawing into herself
- Fear of hurting her baby or herself
- Problems sleeping or eating
- Lack of concern about personal appearance
- Intense anxiety
- Accelerated heart or breathing rates
- Hot or cold flashes
- Chest pain
- Recurrent frightening thoughts
- Obsessing over the baby’s health
- Repetitive behaviors, such as compulsive hand-washing
- Sad, overwhelming feelings Difficulty eating/sleeping
- Difficulty eating/sleeping
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- No interest in the baby
- Thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself
Since postpartum depression ranges in its severity, women need to speak with their doctors about their symptoms in order to get treatment, which includes medication and/or therapy.
This condition will affect around 10 percent of all women. Women with PPA tend to have just the anxiety or anxiety with depression. This disorder may also entail postpartum panic disorder that includes the feeling of having panic attacks along with anxious feelings.
What are the symptoms of this condition?
- Eating and sleeping habits have changed
- Inability to control racing thoughts
- Constantly feeling worried
- The constant fear that something bad will happen
- Difficulty focusing or sitting still for a period of time
- Physical symptoms can include hot flashes, dizziness, and nausea
- PPA is highly treatable, fading away after the proper treatment is applied.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder is relatively new in the group.
It’s believed that up to five percent of women suffer from the symptoms of this condition…
- Excessively occupied to keep the baby safe.
- Feeling like you must do this repeatedly to relieve the fearful and anxious feelings such as ordering things, counting things, checking and rechecking actions that have already been carried out, etc.
- Persistent, repetitive thoughts or obsessions such as disturbing mental images of the baby.
- Fear of alone time with the baby.
- Understands the obsession but feels shame that’s associated with them.
Women with PPOCD know these feelings, actions and thoughts are abnormal and generally don’t act on them.
However, the obsession can hinder the mother’s ability to properly care for the child.
Women with the right treatment can attain freedom from those compulsions and drives.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
This condition is often linked to women who experienced some type of trauma – real or imagined – during the birth of their child or right afterward. It’s thought that up to six percent of women have this disorder.
What kinds of traumas may trigger PPTSD?
- Unplanned cesarean
- Emergency complications
- A birth that uses intrusive interventions
- Baby staying in NICU
- Little to no support in the delivery
- Lack of communication from support or birth team
- Feeling powerless
What are some of the symptoms of PPTSD?
- Flashbacks or nightmares about the trauma or birth
- Panic or anxiety attacks
- Feeling detached from life
- Easily startled, sleeplessness, irritability, etc.
- Avoidance of things that remind women of the event
- May start to re-experience the events
Women suffering from PPTSD must speak with a healthcare provider about their feelings. The proper treatment will ensure the symptoms decrease with time and fade away.
A very small percentage of women, just one or two per thousand new mothers, experience an extreme form of a mood disorder, called postpartum psychosis.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis appear to be triggered by just giving birth!
Women may hallucinate (seeing or hearing something that isn’t real), and/or have delusions (thoughts not based in reality), or experience extreme insomnia, agitation, and bizarre behavior.
Some additional symptoms include:
- You have more energy than you’ve ever had in your life.
- You believe you can’t trust people, even your family, and friends.
- You believe suddenly that you have a divine mission.
- Time seems to be slowing down or speeding up.
- You feel strange sensations, such as things crawling on your skin.
- You feel like you’re being controlled by something, with powerful compelling urges to do harm.
- You think you’re going crazy.
- You’re afraid you’ll never get better.
- People who care about you tell you that something is wrong.
Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency.
If you, or a new mom you know, experience these symptoms, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. Getting help right away is key while a new mom still has enough insight to know she needs help.
Stay with the new mom until medical care is in place.
Some factors increase the likelihood that a mood disorder may occur.
Some of these include – severe or ongoing postpartum pain, relationship or financial difficulties, and isolation.
Women with a history of physical or emotional trauma, depression, sexual abuse, severe premenstrual syndrome, substance abuse, or other mental health disorders are more likely to develop a postpartum mood disorder.
How To Help Someone with Postpartum Depression?
If you are experiencing postpartum emotional problems, ask for help with caring for your baby. If you have a partner or other support person, ask him or her to help with the household chores.
If your baby is fed with bottles, ask for help with nighttime feedings.
Do as much as you can, but don’t blame or be harsh with yourself if some nonessential things aren’t done.
Isolation contributes to depression and anxiety.
Try to find a friend or family member with whom you can honestly share your feelings. Joining or forming a new mothers’ group, connecting with other women facing the same issues, is a powerful way to overcome your challenges.
Just knowing “I’m not the only one” can be a big relief.
Speak with your doctor or mental health professional about talk therapy with a counselor or therapist.
Antidepressant medication or medications for anxiety are sometimes used.
How Do You Know If You Have Postpartum Depression?
How Long Can Postpartum Depression Last?
Is this a 2-week thing? 6 months? 2 years? Will I get this even before I give birth?
There is no science or studies or anything to confirm how long this will last. No one knows!
I am sure there are many reasons why this lasts longer or shorter for some moms.
Could be these mommies don’t let on about it… could be they have entered a psychosis or could be the severity of this disease has taken them on a bit differently.
Also, is the doctor treating you effective enough?
Are your living conditions and surroundings supporting you?
The doctor will not be able to come home with you, so it is vital that your home is filled with supportive people and things to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
A study on support from family and friends during recovery from postpartum or any form of depression, found that emotional support is significantly associated with the outcome a person has with depression. (Nasser, Acta Scandinavia Psyciatrica, 2004)
You need rest (SLEEP), peace and most importantly good nutrition.
Sleep: I am talking about 8+ hours when needed… the use of blackout curtains is a must.
Peace: Your family and friends support to handle the everyday life musings for you. Like watching the babies or household chores.
Nutrition: Let’s start with whole type foods. I mean no SUGAR, no fast food, and no junk. Whole foods such as poultry, veggies, fruits and some nuts… a great book to read for this is here.
The healing process…
Postpartum Psychosis Stories
I found reading more and more personal stories connected with this disease, I feel that much closer to understanding what this feels like.
Although I did go through this myself for the length of a couple weeks, I don’t know what it means to feel psychosis or PTSD or the myriad of other mood disorders that come after giving birth.
There is a great book and resource that I recommend if you are interested in understanding and reading MANY stories of postpartum depression with a focus on understanding postpartum psychosis. Just click the image below for more information.
Here is her story in a TedX talk, Teresa Twomey at TEDxBushnellPark:
Recovery from Postpartum Mood Disorders…
What To Do If You Have Postpartum Depression?
For most women, recovery is two steps forward, one step back.
With treatment, you’ll start to have a few good days, and feel solidly on the path to being you again. Then suddenly anxiety grabs you, or guilt and sadness, even anger, well up.
You may condemn yourself for even thinking that there was no going back to a dark place, but knowing that you can expect some days will feel like relapse empowers you to tolerate the bad days – you know that they are a normal part of recovery.
You know, also, that many women traversed that dark tunnel and came out into the light, to stay.
You are still moving in the right direction. You and your baby are worth waiting out the stormy days. You matter. Your sisters in motherhood need you, too.
You have been a role model for your child since before birth.
It may seem like our children don’t hear much of what we say, but they see everything we do. If your child was suffering emotionally, you’d move heaven and earth to get help for them.
SHOW them, by getting help for yourself, that it’s the right thing for a responsible person to do.
Compiled using these Resources and Best Postpartum Support:
1) Postpartum Mood Disorders: An Informational Guide for Couples http://psychotherapy.com/mom.html – [email protected]; This is an excellent resource for individuals as well as couples.
2) Hotline for postpartum depression: 1-800-PPD-MOMS (773-6667). This number can be used for any postpartum emotional needs.
3) Postpartum Progress, a community of peers: http://www.postpartumprogress.com; one of their excellent resources is a maternal mental health checklist, for your understanding and communication with healthcare providers.
4) This Isn’t What I Expected, author Karen Kleiman,
5)Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, author Brooke Shields, and other books are available from online booksellers.
6) Sleepless Days: One Woman’s Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Susan Kushner Resnick – a more serious case.
7) Postpartum.net – PSI Blog
8) Williams Obstetrics – Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 55. MedlinePlus [Internet].
9) Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2006 Feb 21].
10) Postpartum Depression; [updated 2006 Feb 9; reviewed 2006 Jan 25; cited 2006 Feb 22]. Available from:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/postpartumdepression.html
11) Depression during and after Pregnancy Fact Sheet, http://www.womenshealth.gov