Postpartum Mental Health

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I wanted to touch on a topic that affects so many women around the world. Like other mental health issues, postpartum depression (PPD) is misunderstood, stigmatized, and grossly undiagnosed and untreated. So many suffer in silence due to feelings of shame and blame themselves for something they have absolutely no control over. Many women are afraid to discuss these types of emotions because of the typical image we see on TV that portrays an over joyous mom after the birth of her baby. These images are dangerous because they completely disregard the full range of emotions that are present after birth and isolates anyone who doesn’t fit into that “perfect image.” The truth is that you or someone you love may have had, are currently, or will experience postpartum depression as it affects 1 in 7 women. To help you identify the signs, as well as understand the difference between PPD, Baby Blues, and even postpartum psychosis, I wanted to provide this educational resource. I also offer tips on when to seek help and what you can do if you or a loved one is struggling.



Baby Blues


Let’s start off by talking about what is known as Baby Blues. It is common for women to experience mood swings for a few days to 2 weeks after having a baby. Think about it, your life has just changed drastically and your body/hormones have been put through an intense rollercoaster experience. Of course, you will experience some mood changes and periods of confusion. If you are a first time mom, you may feel sad at the sudden loss of your life before children. This may be the first time in your life when your normal sleep pattern is constantly interrupted and you have to care for someone who needs constant attention and care. If negative feelings arise after birth, know that you are not alone as 70-80% of women experience similar moods.


The symptoms include:

  • Crying

  • Impatience

  • Irritability

  • Reslessness

  • Anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling sad

  • Difficulty concentrating

What to do:


It’s important to talk about your feelings with someone you trust as soon as possible. Talking through these emotions can be therapeutic and even help you make sense of what is happening. Maybe you are just really tired and need some additional help. Voicing these concerns can help your support system know that they need to step up and play a more active role. You can also consider journaling as another way to get your thoughts out. Remember to take care of yourself by eating well, taking a shower, getting some fresh air, and asking for help when needed.



Postpartum Depression


Once your symptoms prolong beyond 2 weeks and are more intense, that is when it becomes categorized as postpartum depression. Your symptoms also start to interfere with your ability to care for yourself and/or the baby. With baby blues, you may have cried through those diaper changes, but with postpartum depression, you may not be able to change diapers at all. Some women can even develop symptoms during pregnancy and should be evaluated by their provider if they have a history of depression. Also, many women can develop symptoms up to a year after birth. It’s important to seek help if you believe you or a family member are experiencing postpartum depression as untreated symptoms can lead to neglect and even harm.


The symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood

  • Severe mood swings

  • Excessive crying

  • Difficulty bonding with baby

  • Isolating from family/friends

  • Eating problems (loss of appetite or over-eating)

  • Insomnia

  • Overwhelming fatigue

  • Loss of energy

  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy

  • Irritability and anger

  • Hopelessness

  • Feeling shame, guilt, inadequacy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety/panic attacks

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or baby

  • Recurrent thoughts of death/suicide

What to do:


Talk to your healthcare provider right away! They will bring you in for an appointment and screen you for postpartum depression. Depending on the severity, you may be referred to a psychiatrist/therapist, started on antidepressants, and/or given other resources. If you have thoughts of harming yourself, call your healthcare provider, tell a close family member/friend, and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their web chat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat or text HOME to 741741.



Postpartum Psychosis


Postpartum psychosis is rare, but extremely severe and can be life-threatening. It affects 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. Usually, this can develop with the first week after delivery and should always be treated immediately! Unfortunately, research has found that postpartum psychosis is associated with a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate.


The symptoms include:

  • Confusion

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations

  • Paranoia

  • Irritability

  • Hyperactivity

  • Insomnia

  • Rapid mood swings

  • Difficulty communicating

  • Obsessive thoughts about baby

  • Attempts to harm yourself or baby

What to do:


Do not hesitate as this is an emergency that requires immediate attention. Call your healthcare provider and the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their web chat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat or text HOME to 741741.


I hope this resource can help you or a loved one identify postpartum mental health issues and feel confident seeking help if needed. Remember, it is not your fault and simply how your body responded to pregnancy. Do not feel ashamed but know there is treatment available.


xoxo, Global Midwife


Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, only education. Always check with your healthcare provider.