A: About 80% of women experience some sort of mood disturbance after giving birth.
You have just given birth to a beautiful little baby but for some reason you feel different than you thought. You feel upset, alone, afraid, or unloving towards your baby, and feel guilt because of it. For all of you who think you are alone-you’re not. 80% of women experience these same feelings because of the hormonal imbalance that occurs after pregnancy. For most of you these feelings are mild and will go away on their own. Unfortunately about half of women will develop “the baby blues” and another 10-20% will develop postpartum depression.
The Baby Blues (defined by e medicine health)-
“A common temporary psychological state right after childbirth when a new mother may have sudden mood swings, feeling very happy, then very sad, cry for no apparent reason, feel impatient, unusually irritable, restless, anxious, lonely and sad. The baby blues may last only a few hours or as long as 1 to 2 weeks after delivery. The baby blues in this sense are less severe than a postpartum depression. The baby blues do not always require treatment from a health care provider. Often, joining a support group of new mothers or talking with other mothers helps.”
Signs that you may have “the baby blues” include:
- Feelings of emotion that peak 3-5 days after delivery and last from several days to 2 weeks.
- Crying more easily than usual, trouble sleeping, or feeling irritable, sad, and “on edge” emotionally.
Developing the baby blues is not related to a previous mental illness nor is it caused by stress. However, stress and a history of depression may influence whether the blues go on to become major depression. Also baby blues are so common and expected they are not considered an illness nor do they interfere with a mother’s ability to take care of her child. This is not the case with postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression occurs with 10-20% of women and happens soon after birth (within a couple months after delivery). Some of the signs of postpartum depression are:
- Depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, trouble sleeping, fatigue, appetite problems, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, impaired concentration.
- Risk factors include previous major depression, psychosocial stress, inadequate social support, and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
- You may worry about the baby’s health and well-being. You also may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the infant.
Postpartum depression does interfere with a woman’s ability to care for her baby. If you have these symptoms, and feel you have postpartum depression, talk to your doctor about what type of medication would be best for you (counseling and support groups are usually all that is needed).
The most rare and serious postpartum disorder is postpartum (puerperal) psychosis and requires immediate medical help and treatment. This disorder causes serious depression and thoughts of severely hurting your baby. Once again seek medical help immediately if you recognize this in yourself or in your significant other.