This is part two of our series on maternal mental health. Two weeks ago, we discussed maternal mental health during pregnancy. This included what’s “normal” and when to seek professional help. Some people experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy, however it is even more likely that a new mother may experience emotional, difficult, and perhaps concerning mood symptoms after they deliver.
Perhaps the most influential factor, or reason, for why women experience postpartum mood disorders is due to hormonal fluctuations that occur after delivering a baby. You know what else this means?
- It is entirely out of your hands if this happens.
- You haven’t done anything wrong.
- You are NOT defective.
- You are NOT a bad parent.
Simply put, when your hormones are plummeting after giving birth, this can have an enormous effect on your mental health.
Significant Life Changes
Having a baby, especially your first (but also your second, third, etc.) is a HUGE life change. Caring for another life – and a life that cannot initially communicate through any way other than crying, is completely dependent on you for meeting all their needs, and who is up every two to three hours to be fed and changed (and therefore, so you are), is often tiring, stressful, overwhelming, and radically different from your life even the day before you delivered.
Balancing these changes with sleep deprivation, recovery from delivering (whether by C-section or vaginally), and the significant hormonal fluctuations is a recipe for mood disruption.
Postpartum Mood Symptoms
Again, it is important to remember that postpartum mood disturbance is not a flaw, weakness, and does not make you defective. Rather, it happens to many women for reasons beyond your control. There is a difference between having the “baby blues” and a diagnosable Postpartum Depression.
Baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
On the other hand, a diagnosable postpartum depression lasts longer and is more intense. Initially, it can be mistaken for baby blues, but if find your symptoms haven’t gone away after a week or two, or feel incredibly intense, this is a sign its postpartum depression. Sometimes, though, symptoms of postpartum depression don’t develop until later on and may not even present until up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
It is also important to be aware of postpartum psychosis. If this were to occur, it usually happens within a week of delivery, but the symptoms are severe and can lead to life-threatening thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that require immediate treatment. Symptoms include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive energy and agitation
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
WE’RE HERE TO HELP
At Tampa Therapy, we are committed to providing a relaxing, healing, and non-judgmental environment to support you on your journey to mental and emotional growth and health, and into parenthood. If you want things to be different, you have to change them. This means being open-minded, patient, committed, and understanding that therapy is an option and speaking with a professional can lead to better mental wellness during this important and truly special time.
If you are feeling more down or anxious about your recent arrival than you think you should be, give us a call or email us today to start the process of getting help.