Planning For Postpartum: Mental Health
Postpartum mood disorders include more than just postpartum depression. Read on to find out about the other postpartum mental health struggles that women might face after having a baby - and how to get help.
If you’re about to have your first baby, this is both an exciting time and a nerve-wracking time! No matter how much research you do, questions you ask, books you read, classes you attend, and doctors you consult, nothing truly can prepare you for the reality of bringing your first child into the world. One aspect of postpartum life that often gets pushed aside is mental health.
While postpartum mental health issues such as postpartum depression have gained more time in the spotlight in recent years as more women have opened up about their struggles, postpartum depression is only one of many mental health issues that a new mother might face after pregnancy.
Here are some of the mood disorders that new moms should be aware of:
1. Perinatal Depression
Unlike postpartum depression, perinatal depression actually begins during pregnancy. The symptoms of this disorder are extreme irritability, bouts of crying, feelings of guilt and shame, excessive anger, racing thoughts, sleep disturbance, appetite changes, constant worry, and overwhelming sadness. Perinatal depression puts women at a higher risk of having postpartum depression, so it is important to discuss your feelings with your doctor both during and after pregnancy. There are a few medications that are safe for use during pregnancy, as well as other non-medical treatments such as talk therapy, support groups, or meditation.
2. Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression occurs after you deliver your baby. It differs from the “baby blues” that up to 80% of women experience after childbirth, which usually subsides after the first 2-3 weeks postpartum. Postpartum depression can affect up to 1 in 7 women and symptoms include prolonged feelings of guilt and sadness, a loss of interest or connection with your baby, excessive crying, lack of motivation to do everyday tasks, sleep changes, and may even include thoughts of self-harm. Postpartum depression is a serious disorder that should be addressed by a medical professional. There are many treatment options, and new mothers should not feel guilty for getting help!
3. Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum anxiety is characterized as a hyper-vigilance and drive to protect your little one from harm, both real and imagined. Other symptoms include a prolonged sense of unease, frequent worry, and feeling overwhelmed. Women struggling with postpartum anxiety might have problems sleeping, lack of desire to leave the house with their baby, and a lack of trust in anyone else who cares for their baby.
4. Postpartum PTSD
Not all births go according to plan - and in many cases, emergencies arise. Women who experience any kind of trauma during pregnancy, labor, and delivery are susceptible to postpartum PTSD. Symptoms include intrusive thoughts, frightening flashbacks, and sleep disturbances.
5. Postpartum OCD
Postpartum OCD is a form of anxiety that is characterized by obsessive thinking, repetitive thoughts, intrusive images, and impulsive behaviors. Women who struggle with postpartum OCD might find themselves washing their baby’s clothing over and over for fear that they’re not clean enough.
6. Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is a very rare, but very dangerous condition that affects about 1 in every 1,000 women. Symptoms include manic episodes, erratic behavior, delusional beliefs, and intrusive thoughts. This condition must be addressed by a medical professional so adequate treatment can be prescribed. Severe cases of postpartum psychosis have led mothers to commit infanticide or suicide.
These mood disorders are serious and need to be discussed with a medical professional. However, many women do not receive adequate care either because they don’t know about these conditions, or they feel guilty for reaching out for help. It is vital that postpartum mothers get as much attention and care as their newborn babies so that any mental health issues can be diagnosed before they become very disruptive to a mother’s life.
If you’re struggling with one of these postpartum mood disorders, here are 5 things that can help.
Get enough sleep. Getting enough rest can be hard with a newborn baby who wakes up every 1-3 hours during each 24-hour period! As much as you can, enlist the help of a partner or another caregiver to give you a break to take a nap or sleep longer stretches at night.
Make a plan. During your pregnancy, educate yourself on these mood disorders and be sure to talk to your doctor about any of your concerns. Talk with your partner about your thoughts and feelings and ask them to monitor your mood after you have your baby. If you take any medications, discuss with a health professional how these medications might need to be altered during and after pregnancy.
Talk to a professional. Consult the help of a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis of your mental health issues. Talk therapy can be extremely helpful for some women. Telehealth can be helpful during these times as well.
Try medication. There are many medications that are safe to use during breastfeeding, so if you feel that medication would be a good option for you, consult a doctor about getting on the right medication.
Get support. Joining a support group through your local hospital or clinic, or an online mental health support group can be very helpful for new mothers battling mental illness. The Facebook group KeaBabies Love was founded to be a supportive group for all parents and can be a great resource to ask questions to other moms!
Educating new mothers about the various mental health issues that may arise after pregnancy is important for getting women the care that they need. If you or a loved one is struggling with a postpartum mental health issue, the best step to take is to be seen by a medical professional so that you can begin to receive help!
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.