Major life events can cause a decline or change in mental health—and when a major life event is also mixed with significant hormone fluctuations, it is even more likely to cause a shift in mental health. Postpartum mood changes are common, with an estimated 85% of women experiencing some level of mood disturbance in the weeks to months following the birth of a child. The best thing you can do for yourself, (or a partner, or a loved one who is expecting a child) is to understand the symptoms of postpartum depression (also known as PPD), and what you can do to prepare for it or support someone through it. The first thing to understand is that postpartum mental health challenges are categorized into three main types, “the baby blues”, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis.
This is a common experience that includes mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. The “baby blues” typically begins within the first days after delivery, and is relatively short-lived—lasting around 2-3 weeks on average. This condition affects around 75% of mothers, even if they’ve had previous children.
This is a more severe mood disorder that is clinically similar to depression at any other time of life. PPD can surface anytime in the first six months after giving birth, but symptoms typically begin 1-3 months after delivery. It affects around 10% of new mothers and about 30% of mothers who have previously experienced PPD. Common symptoms include:
In severe cases of postpartum depression, a mother may also experience:
Postpartum depression is primarily caused by sudden hormonal changes mixed with environmental factors—namely stress and lack of sleep. There are also some circumstances that can raise your risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Some of these risk factors include:
The good news is that managing postpartum depression has a high success rate. Counseling with a licensed therapist and occasionally the use of prescription medications have the quickest outcome for success. You can facilitate quicker recovery from PPD by making a plan with your support partner, friends, family, and doctor about what to do if you begin experiencing symptoms. If you have a support system (parenting partner, friends, family), talk early and often during your pregnancy about how to manage the environmental factors, and how to lower stress and anxiety once the baby arrives. This could be coming up with a sleeping routine that splits the night duties evenly between the parenting partners, assigning household duties, and preparing frozen meals for quick dinner options.
Keeping an open dialogue with your doctor about your thoughts and feelings is also important. Your doctor will assess and monitor your mental health and can make recommendations for medications or therapy if needed.
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe postpartum mood disorder and is clinically marked by disorientation, obsessive thoughts, hallucinations or delusions, insomnia, excessive energy, agitation, and paranoia. Postpartum psychosis is very rare, with around 1 maternal case in every 1000 births. Postpartum psychosis occurs quickly, usually within the first two weeks of giving birth, and can be a life-threatening event.
The best way you can help a loved one who is experiencing the baby blues is to offer to help them as they adapt to their new lifestyle. Offer to take care of the baby while the new mother takes a nap, or take care of older children while mom and baby nap. Bring over or cook a meal, or offer to help with chores around the house. Many times, new mothers feel disconnected from friends when they transition into a new stage of life (motherhood). You can help them feel less isolated by making conversation and letting them know that you are there for them. You could also bring the mother a thoughtful gift that is just for her—such as candles, lotions, or her favorite snacks.
Postpartum depression is not something to take lightly. Be aware of worsening symptoms such as:
Early intervention and social support are the keys to a successful recovery from PPD. Joining an online support group can help you socialize with other mothers who are experiencing or have experienced similar thoughts and feelings.
Remember to take time for yourself each day to enjoy a hobby or activity that helps you relax and brings you happiness, such as working on a craft, reading a book, or watching a favorite movie. As you recover from childbirth and adjust to a change in routine with your newborn, it is important to set realistic goals for yourself. Don’t pressure yourself into keeping the house perfectly clean, cooking meals from scratch every night, or losing weight. You can also find a symptom-checker, help guides, online support forums, and a support hotline at postpartumdepression.org.
If you or someone you know is in the Nevada or California areas and struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression, reach out to Medens Health via our contact page or call (833) 624-5400 to begin speaking with a licensed therapist who can help.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.