Understanding postpartum mood disorders and How to prepare for the days, weeks and months after Bub has arrived.
The day has arrived when your new bundle of joy has made it from the warmth of your womb to the startling busy outside world and into your arms.
First of all, well done!
Know matter how your baby was born you’ve just accomplished an incredible achievement!
You deserve MORE than a pat on the back, in fact you deserve a TOOL kit, full of hints, tips and tricks plus loads of positive affirmations to help you through the difficult times ahead.
After the third stage of labour, when your placenta is birthed, your hormones change dramatically, this mixed with exhaustion from pregnancy, labour and birth, not to mention trying to find your feet as a new parent, can all attribute to postnatal difficulties. Some of these are common and some not so much, some are dealt with easily and without the need for intervention and some can have devastating effects if not taken note of and acted on. So what are these difficulties? The proper term would be postpartum mood disorders these include:
Let’s start with baby blues or (BB). BB is normal, once the placenta is birthed hormones change dramatically and it is speculated that this is the reason behind baby blues; which consists of moodiness, being weepy and feeling lost. Baby blues tends to set in around day 3 and can last up to 10 days, on average. Baby blues does not require treatment. Don’t be afraid if you have these symptoms, 80% of new mums experience this and overcome it within 2 weeks of giving birth. It may help to think of this time as your adjustment period, life is different now and that’s ok, you may be mourning your old life and that is normal, heck it is necessary.(1) (2)
Postpartum psychosis is more serious. Common symptoms of pp psychosis include hyperactivity, insomnia, paranoia and suspicion, manic mood swings and irritability. Women who experience pp psychosis tend to have a history of bipolar disorder. The serious concern for mothers suffering from pp psychosis is when mothers hallucinate and experience verbal hallucinations where they hear ‘something’ telling them to harm themselves or their baby, this is when action must be taken. Only a small percentage of women are affected by pp psychosis but it's still important to be aware of the warning signs and to reach out for help if you are the Mother or you know a Mum going through this. There is no shame in seeking help. It’s important to remember that pp psychosis is temporary and that treatment is available in the form of medication and counselling. (1)(3)
Postpartum obsessive compulsion is when you do things unnecessarily again and again, for example every nappy change you change your child’s clothes even if they aren’t soiled. Or you constantly rearrange the baby’s room or empty the draws and re fold the clothes again and again. The most concerning obsession is visualising harming your child, the difference between pp obsessive compulsion and pp psychosis is the Mother is aware that her thoughts aren’t normal.
Some other obsessions may include:
Postpartum panic disorders affect 10% of mothers. Symptoms include panic attacks and extreme anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations. Seeking help in the form of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy can help greatly and in some cases medications can too.(1)
Postpartum depression(ppd) affects up to 20% of postpartum women, and can also affect partners! The onset of ppd is anytime within the first year of giving birth. PPD is constant feelings of anxiety, guilt, shame, unhappiness, sadness, weepiness, mood swings, loss of appetite and insomnia. Some women also become suicidal. Treatment comes as therapy and or medication. Women who are at more risk of experiencing ppd are those in unstable relationships, have had previous forms of depression and are lacking in support. (1)(5)(6)(7)(8)
This article has covered the basics of postpartum mood disorders. It is always good to be informed about things you may encounter on your journey into parenthood, so that you may be prepared if the time comes when you find yourself, partner or loved one struggling. The best way to try and prevent experiencing any of the above postpartum mood disorders is by looking after yourself, asking for help and setting up a good support network and even a mental health plan, just in case. A mental health plan can be as simple as, “if I start to feel like this (x,y,z) I will try one or all of the following (x,y,z) things to help me get back on track, these things can range from going for a walk, ignoring the house work for a day or two, asking for help, booking in to see a counsellor just for a chat, organising a play date or catch up, etc. the list is endless, all that matters is that you have a list of things you enjoy doing and a list of contacts in case you need help. First point of call is usually is your GP, they can refer you on, or else the Internet is a wealth of knowledge with many contacts for local help. Please also see the “other resources tab" on this website for helpful contacts AND check the blog to see a long list of ideas for how to look after and give back to yourself to ensure you cup s full.
Tessa Bobir is a passionate women and mother, who believes in the sharing of ancient wisdom, through honest education and compassionate support from one women to another, during and in between each great transition of life.