Childbirth is a life-changing event for women. Pregnancy is an occurrence full of growth, change, enrichment, and challenge. As a mother, all too often, “what to expect when you’re expecting may not be expected”. The outlook one ideally has in mind can easily not fit your preconceived perception. During pregnancy physical changes in the body are something visible to the naked eye, easily noticed. However, some changes are more concealed, such as your mental health during pregnancy, childbirth, or in your future as a new mother.
It is very common for pregnant mothers to not be acquainted with the risks of mental health conditions or disorders caused by pregnancy or childbirth. Complications from childbirth can even continue in the following postpartum year. Trying to keep up with the physical changes can be hard enough at best. It is important to be diligent in your mental health care during your pregnancy, childbirth, and the following months ahead.
If you have noticed significant changes in your mental state after childbirth, don’t worry you’re not alone. At least eighty-five percent of women will experience some type of significant changes to their mood, or mental health stability such as; postpartum depression, “baby blues”, or in more extreme cases a childbirth mental disorder. Don’t worry these changes are normal considering a big life change like pregnancy. Should you experience any psychological problems that are interfering with your daily life or relationships, talk to your doctor and get help. In the following sections, you will learn to identify common signs, causes of depression, or mental instability during childbirth and in your first year as a new mother.
Common Depressive Disorders and Mental Anxieties
- Postpartum Blues or “baby blues”
- Post partum depression (PPD)
- Child birth post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)
What are the Postpartum Blues or Baby Blues?
Postpartum Blues is perhaps the most common occurring form of depression and at least 80% of mothers will experience it after childbirth. Often referred to as baby blues this condition is characterized by mood swings and excessive anxiety. It is normal to experience uncontrollable moments of crying and feelings of disconnection to your baby as a new mother.
The onset of postpartum blues usually occurs in three to five days after delivery, and normally should subside once your hormone levels start to stabilize. Generally, symptoms should not last more than two weeks. If you continue to experience mood swings or depression longer than a few weeks after birth the problem could be more serious.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Postpartum Depression is a more serious form of depression and less common than Postpartum Blues or “baby blues”. Commonly referred to as PPD, postpartum depression includes all of the major signs of depression, but is only experienced after actual childbirth. This depression or mental state can occur any time after delivery and up to one year following childbirth. It is estimated that ten to twenty percent of woman will experience this form of depression.
Common Symptoms of PPD
- Drastic changes in motivation
- Severe mood swings, irritability, or intense anger
- Uncontrollable crying
- Excessive preoccupation with the baby’s health
- Noticeable changes in eating habits; eating too much or too little than normal
- Starting to take more risks than normal. This can include risking physical harm or to start taking financial risks. Examples of starting to take financial risks includes starting to trade high rick financial instruments such as binary over/under options or staring to gamble in online casinos.
- Feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your baby
- A strong sense of disconnection to your baby, feelings of hopelessness, or loss of self worth
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Extreme levels of anxiety disproportionate to life situations
- Changes in hygiene; such as lack of daily self care; or to another extreme an excessive cleaning pertaining to you and the baby
Clinical diagnosis of postpartum depression must exhibit these mood changes; and or depression occurrences. These symptoms will last longer than two weeks; unlike the baby blues. Given the care of a new baby it is understandable that a new mother will experience anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. If drastic changes to mood, appetite, and motivation persist it is important to seek the care of a mental health professional.
Women who experience Childbirth PTSD usually have incidents of traumatic or excessive painful labors; or experience a disturbing loss of control, fear of stillbirth or complications requiring emergency Caesarean section. Some mothers suffer nightmares, and what can be described as flashbacks. Symptoms have been known to last many months post pregnancy. Two key elements need to be present to have a clinical diagnosis of Childbirth PTSD: an experience or witnessing of an event involving actual or threatened danger to oneself or others, and responding with intense fear, horror, or helplessness. This condition can seriously interfere with the normal happenings of everyday life and should be taken seriously. Always consult a medical professional as soon as possible should these incidents occur.
- Disturbing memories of the delivery
- Obsessive or racing thoughts about childbirth
- Feelings of detachment or numbness
- Extreme feelings of panic or terror related to the birth or where it occurred
- Nightmares or in extreme cases night terrors
- Fearfulness, sadness, anxiety, or irritability
What is Postpartum Psychosis (PPD)?
In some rare cases mothers can suffer from severe mental mood disorders or depression. This mental state is called Postpartum Psychosis (PPP). This condition affects about one percent of childbearing women, and is the most extreme depressive disorder in this category of mood disorders. The onset is quick and very severe occurring one to two weeks after delivery. Symptoms of PPD are similar to those of general psychotic reactions or psychosis such as; delusions (false beliefs), or false perceptions, and manifest quite noticeably causing a mother not to be able to care for herself or her baby. In some cases, women suffering from PPD have a strong likelihood of being a danger to themselves and the infant. As with the previous listed mood changes, and disorders it is vital to consult a mental health doctor immediately should they occur. This mood disorder is very dangerous and sometimes will require immediate hospitalization.
Signs of PPD
- Extreme confusion, memory loss, or delusions
- Physical symptoms such as: a refusal to eat, inability to cease activity, frantic movements or behaviors
- Behavioral symptoms such as; paranoia, irrational statements, or an expressed preoccupation with trivial things
A mother who is diagnosed with PPD should be hospitalized until a stable condition is achieved. Doctors may prescribe antipsychotic medications or antidepressant medications to treat the postpartum psychosis. Mothers who experience PPD are highly likely to suffer from the psychosis again should they have another pregnancy. It is important if you or a family member experiences any of the mood changes, or depression occurrences discussed that you seek a mental doctor’s care. Counseling and other coping mechanisms can help a mother get through their ordeal. It is also very important to try and be patient with your spouse, or family member during this time; support of family and friends is an important structure to practice, and proves very helpful to recovery.
How to prevent PPD
Though PPD can be debilitating, there are proactive steps one can take to minimize its risk and manage its symptoms.
- Stay Informed: Understanding PPD, its symptoms, and risk factors can make it easier to recognize and address the condition early. Education is a critical tool for prevention.
- Seek Support: Having a robust support system is crucial. Regularly communicating with loved ones or joining a support group can provide emotional sustenance and understanding during challenging times.
- Prioritize Self-Care: Taking time for oneself, even if it’s just a few minutes a day, can make a significant difference. This might include reading, meditating, or simply resting.
- Exercise Regularly: Physical activity, even light exercises like walking, can release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters.
- Consult Healthcare Professionals: Regular check-ups during and after pregnancy can help monitor mental health. If feelings of sadness or hopelessness persist, it’s vital to seek professional guidance.
- Limit Stress: Where possible, reduce or eliminate sources of significant stress and consider techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or journaling to manage everyday anxieties.
Awareness, combined with proactive measures and timely intervention, can substantially reduce the risk and impact of PPD. It’s crucial for new mothers to remember they’re not alone and that seeking help is a sign of strength.