Most women will experience changes in their mood after childbirth; however, 15 to 20 percent will experience more significant feelings of depression and anxiety, which will result in some form of postpartum mental disorder.
Every woman could potentially develop these feelings sometime between pregnancy and the first year after childbirth.
Read on to learn more about postpartum mental disorders and potential treatment options.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
Postpartum depression is a common experience for mothers after the birth of their child. It is depression that is brought on by childbirth or pregnancy and is different for each mother.
Not only can mothers experience postpartum depression, but they can also be affected by postpartum anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These disorders are not as common as postpartum depression.
These disorders can last for a few months or even a year after the pregnancy. If left untreated, the disorder could last longer and could lead to developing major depression later in life.
Postpartum depression is not the only postpartum disorder. There are multiple types of postpartum disorders:
- Postpartum Anxiety: A postpartum disorder characterized by an intense sense of worry of irrational problems arising involving baby or by a high level of stress and worry over small issues. Symptoms could include racing thoughts, sleep disturbances, inability to sit still and lack of appetite. In severe circumstances, a woman could develop postpartum panic disorder.
- Postpartum OCD: This postpartum disorder consists of persistent obsessive behavior and thoughts about baby. Some symptoms include fear of being left alone with baby, hypervigilance in protecting baby and compulsive behavior. Women who develop this disorder are somewhat aware of how bizarre these thoughts are and are highly unlikely to act upon them.
- Postpartum Psychosis: This is the rarest postpartum disorder affecting only around 0.2 percent of postpartum mothers. It usually comes on suddenly and involves experiencing delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and rapid mood swings involving baby or family members.
- Postpartum Depression: This is the most common postpartum disorder that women develop after childbirth. A woman who has postpartum depression may suffer from irritability and anger, lack of interest in baby, crying and sadness, sleep and appetite disturbances, feelings of guilt and hopelessness and in severe cases, thoughts of harming themselves or baby.
- Postpartum PTSD: This disorder is brought on by some sort of trauma that was experienced during birth like a prolapsed cord, unplanned C-section or baby going to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A woman who is facing this disorder might have flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, feelings of detachment, difficulty sleeping and avoidance of things or people that might remind them of the event.
POSTPARTUM DISORDER TREATMENTS
Getting help is extremely important because those who don’t seek help are at risk to develop long-term mental disorders.
The first step in treatment is talking with a loved one and admitting you might be suffering from a postpartum mental disorder. A key part of this is understanding that you are not alone in going through this, even though it might feel like you are.
A doctor can help identify exactly what type of postpartum mental disorder you are dealing with and what the best course of treatment is:
- Self-care: This involves resting, good nutrition, more help and assistance with taking care of baby and caring for your own needs such as exercise, relaxation and time with significant other/spouse.
- Social support: This includes talking with loved ones and others whether over the phone or in person. Create a community that can help support you as you work through this postpartum disorder.
- Talk with a counselor or therapist: Although talking with others can be helpful, sometimes, you need to talk to a counselor who can help identify where your disorder is coming from and help you create a plan to improve your mental state.
- Medication: Sometimes, when a disorder is severe enough and doesn’t seem to improve after trying the above types of treatment, medications might be an option. However, medications are to be used while continuing self-care habits, pursuing social support and counseling.
Motherhood is a learning process, and we want to help you in every way we can as you start this new phase of life.
Here at Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown, soon after childbirth, we begin conducting postpartum visits to help identify how a woman is doing as she transitions into motherhood.
In the postpartum visits, especially the first one, we discuss a few large topics including adjusting, breastfeeding and mental health as well as execute a physical exam.
We will talk about how breastfeeding is going, what type of complications you might be facing and how you can fix those complications.
“Mental clarity is awful during this time,” said Marcie Prettyman, Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown PA-C. “[Practicing breastfeeding] it’s painful, and it hurts. That’s okay. If you can hang in there for the first two weeks, by week three, you will be a pro.”
The conversation of the postpartum visit will also be a discussion on how a woman is adjusting to motherhood as a whole. This can be the most hectic and stressful time in a woman’s life because they are beginning to shift into a completely new season of life.
Lastly, we will talk about your mental health. This is one of the most important things we discuss. We execute a mental health assessment so we can identify how to improve your mental clarity and assure you are having the best postpartum experience possible.
Nearly all women deal with postpartum depression and anxious feelings; so you are not alone. We want to take note of these feelings and help fix them as soon as possible so they do not grow into a full-fledged postpartum mental disorder or long term mental disorder.
POSTPARTUM EDUCATION | WOMEN’S HEALTHCARE OF MORGANTOWN
At Women’s Healthcare of Morgantown, we’re here to offer you support before, during and long after your pregnancy.
If you’re struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum, we’d love for you to get in touch with us. Our experts are here to help:
We also keep a list of other resources on our patient resource page that could help you including: