Postpartum Psychological Problems
(Recently one of my friends asks me about post partum psychological problem. In this blog I am trying to give some information mainly focus on postpartum psychosis and postpartum depression.)Compiled by Bijay Gyawali, PhD
For every woman, having a baby is a challenging time, both physically and emotionally. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feeling joyful one minute and depressed the next.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare illness, compared to the rates of postpartum depression or anxiety. It occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries, or approximately .1% of births. The onset is usually sudden, most often within the first 4 weeks postpartum. Anyone who has previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder has an increased risk of developing postpartum psychosis by some 25-50%, and should seek referral to a specialist perinatal psychiatrist during pregnancy. About half of cases happen ‘out of the blue’ to women without any previous personal or family history of mental illness. It is a frightening condition, both for the woman experiencing it and those around her. Health professionals should consider it as a ‘psychiatric emergency’ as it can escalate rapidly and needs early treatment. The woman may not realize she is ill and partners, family or friends may need to ask for help.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis most frequently appear within two weeks after birth, although rarely, the illness may begin several weeks later. It can start very suddenly with symptoms developing within a few hours of birth. The earliest symptoms often include feeling high, not sleeping, feeling spiritual, talking more than usual or seeming confused. There are a number of key signs associated with a psychotic episode:
- Mania: feeling over-excited, elated or ‘high,’ active, energetic, not needing to sleep, feeling agitated, restless, and irritable, with a busy mind or racing thoughts.
- Depressed or low mood or alternating rapidly between mood states.
- Hallucinations – hearing voices, seeing things or smelling smells that aren’t really there.
- Delusions – false beliefs that are firmly held, sometimes related to the baby, such as it is ‘sent from God’, or is ‘evil’ in some way. Delusions, such as that the mother has won the Lottery, that the TV or radio are referring to her, or that she has special healing powers are not uncommon.
- Confusion rapid or muddled thinking.
A lack of insight – the woman experiencing this condition may be unaware that her behavior is odd in any way. Very often it will be other people who notice that the woman is behaving oddly and is not well.
Post partum depression
Postpartum depression is more debilitating than the “blues.” Women with this condition suffer despondency, tearfulness, feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, irritability and fatigue. Physical symptoms include headaches, numbness, chest pain and hyperventilation. A woman with postpartum depression may regard her child with ambivalence, negativity or disinterest. An adverse effect on the bonding between mother and child may result. Because this syndrome is still poorly defined and under studied, it tends to be under reported. Estimates of its occurrence range from 3% to 20% of births. The depression can begin at any time between delivery and 6 months post-birth, and may last up to several months or even a year.
Lets cope it
First, remember that you are not alone – up to 20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Equally important is remembering that you are not to blame. Here are some suggestions for coping:
- Focus on short-term, rather than long-term goals
- Build something to look forward to into every day, such as a walk, a bath, or a chat with a friend
- Look for free or inexpensive activities; check with your local library, community center or place of worship
- Spend time with your partner and/or close friends
- Share your feelings and ask for help
- Consult your doctor/ clinical psychologist and look for a local support group
If you think a friend or family member is suffering from postpartum depression, offer your support and reassurance. You may be able to direct them towards useful sources of information about postpartum depression. Easing the isolation they feel is an important step.
Postpartum support international
canada mental health association