Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression
This refers to a mild and brief episode of distress occurring in up to 80% of new mothers within the first few weeks after childbirth. A woman can feel weepy, exhausted, anxious or tense, but these feelings generally resolve after the first 4-6 weeks. If not, then it is possible that the condition is actually postpartum depression.
This is more than the "baby blues." It may occur immediately after birth or many months later. It can happen after any birth, not just the first time. It is the most common postpartum complication and can occur in up to 15 to 20% of new mothers.
- The symptoms can develop gradually or have a sudden onset, and they include:
- feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, isolation
- crying for no obvious reason
- sleeping problems, insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- eating problems such as loss of appetite or binge eating
- frightening thoughts or fantasies
- the feeling that something is "not right"
Postpartum Depression is different from the normal stress and exhaustion most parents experience when adjusting to a new baby. It can be a serious health condition that can interfere with a woman's ability to take proper care of herself, her new baby and/or her family. It is also quite treatable, but only if the person asks for help. There are safe medications that can be taken while breastfeeding that are very effective at treating this condition.
Some mothers may experience postpartum anxiety on its own or together with symptoms of depression. Mothers may feel worried or panicky, fear losing control or going crazy, or have chest pains or a racing heart. Postpartum anxiety may also make women feel shaky, dizzy or short of breath.
This rare condition can be a horrible experience for the whole family. The mother may have severe mood swings, hallucinations, and irrational or violent thoughts. Postpartum psychosis is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is an easy-to-take 10-question quiz designed to help diagnose postpartum depression.