There are several types of mood disorders associated with the postpartum phase of pregnancy and childbirth: postpartum blues, postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder. According to statistics provided in Women’s Health and Psychiatry (2002, page 127), fifty to eighty-five percent of mothers experience the postpartum blues, or “baby blues,” following the birth of a child. Ten to fifteen percent of mothers will descend into the shadow of postpartum depression, and one in five hundred will experience postpartum psychosis. These risks and symptoms are similar for moms who adopt. Rest assured that there is hope, there is support, and there is no reason to hide behind a wall of shame.
- Current situation
- Past experiences (infertility, loss, past trauma)
- Family history
- Complications during pregnancy and/or childbirth
- Lack of support
- History of depression or anxiety
- Perfectionist tendencies
Peaks at about one week
By 6 weeks but can occur anytime within first year *
Sudden and extreme onset ***
Depends on treatment but usually resolves within months
Can be ongoing or episodic
Some change in sleep patterns apart from infant care
Inability to sleep
Insomnia and sleep disturbances
Significant gain or loss
Significant gain or loss
(Intrusive Thoughts are disturbing, illogical thoughts.)
Some IT’s that are quickly recognized as illogical and then dismissed
Varying inability to control or stop IT’s
Suicidal or homicidal thoughts
Inability to think logically
Disordered thought patterns
Concern about self but not extreme guilt about feelings
Extreme fears or lack of any fears
Loss of interest in others or usual activities
Can (but may not) exhibit strange behaviors
*Specific times in the postpartum period are more likely to see the onset of PPD specifically: the first week after delivery; start of menstrual cycle; end of breastfeeding.
**Common fears include the dark, the end of the day when others go home, including doctors, and fear of being alone.
***Should not be left alone. Immediate medical attention required.
****Some sources indicate that baby blues can last up to 6 weeks.
Symptoms to watch for and seek IMMEDIATE help with are panic attacks and thoughts of self-harm or harming others. No one should take any chances with these symptoms, as they are NEVER normal baby blues. If a mom is afraid of saying her thoughts for fear of her child being taken, then she could say something like this: "I'm having bad thoughts and need help." No need to disclose the thoughts to random people, but there is a need to get help. It needs to be understood that these types of thoughts are the illness speaking, not the woman.
Women with any of these conditions (including baby blues) are NOT to blame and need immediate active support...both emotional and physical. Bring a meal, clean her toilet, do her dishes, or take her baby(s) out for a walk so she can nap. Send a card, call her daily or weekly, PRAY for her. Be there for her and listen. But do not ignore her.
If you suspect you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional immediately. The information presented here is not medical advice and is not to be taken as such. The best treatment includes a combination of medication and talk therapy. At home, it is important to get lots of rest and always ask for help and prayer support, among other things.
Compiled by Tara Mock & Suzanne Drapeau