As many as 15-20% of women in the United States report suffering from some type of Postpartum Mood Disorder (PPMD). PPMDs vary from the Baby blues, Postpartum Depression (PPD), Postpartum Anxiety (PPA), Postpartum OCD (PPOCD), and all the way to Postpartum Psychosis (PPP). It is unknown how many cases go unreported but it is suspected that rates could be as high as 30%.
Having just completed a continuing education course on Perinatal Depression, I thought it was important to highlight these struggles that SO many women face. I also wanted to highlight this topic because I suffered from PPD and PPA after my daughter, and PPD after my son.
***Take a free 10 question screen by clicking here if you think you may be experiencing Postpartum Depression. It has a 93% success rate of detecting postpartum depression.
***A Daily checklist is available at the bottom of this page for your use!
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was SO in love with her in my growing belly. I loved feeling every movement. I bought all the baby things, and she was all I wanted to talk about. Then I had her. It was very difficult to bond. Breastfeeding was very difficult. I cried a lot and stayed in bed a lot. My husband was starting a new career to support our family and was gone for 15-16 hours a day at a time, often for 6 days a week. I would forget when I last ate or showered last. I didn't want to leave the house. Then I became afraid to leave. Afraid of being in a car accident, my daughter getting kidnapped, someone seeing the thoughts in my head and thinking I was a bad parent (I already thought that every moment of every day in my own mind, despite every one telling me how wonderful of a mother I was). Then, I was afraid of even being in my house with her. I thought if I carried her up the stairs, that I would slip and fall and accidentally hurt her, or even worse, she would die. I was afraid to have her in a different room as me in case someone saw in the window and thought I left her alone and would call CPS. Looking back on it, I wish I recognized it sooner. I struggled for the first 15 months of her life. My marriage struggled for the first 15 months of her life. I constantly nit picked with my husband. I was always mad and yelling. I isolated myself. I tried talking to my OB about my PPD and PPA, but he told me I was fine and it would go away by itself. So I waited....and waited....and waited.... until it finally did - at 15 months postpartum when. I didn't know there was anything else I could do. I wish I knew because I could have gotten rid of it much faster. Let me tell you what I looked like on the outside though: I took a million and one smiling pictures of us, I took her for walks, I used nice baby carriers, I breastfed, I donated breastmilk, I made her own baby food, I used cloth diapers, and was a very passionate mother. A lot of people thought I was an inspirational mom. Not many knew what I was really struggling with. I barely knew.
When I was pregnant with my son, I fully expected to experience PPD again. I was educated on it now, and knew I was at very high risk for it. So I set up my support system beforehand, I encapsulated my placenta, had doctor's phone numbers, support group names, and my husband realized that our first 15 months of parenthood was not normal and knew what to look out for now. This time it waited until my son was 7 months old to hit. I reached out to my support system, I admitted it to my husband, I called therapists, I took my capsules, and I forced myself out of the house. My husband forced me out of the house. I took a break from work. I focused on myself. I used Reiki, Yoga, as well as emotional support and acknowledgment. I was fully prepared to accept medication if these methods didn't work. Yes, there ARE medications you can take while breastfeeding that are safe! To get a list, you can contact Dr. Hale's Infant Risk hotline at (806) 352-2519, Thankfully, with being proactive, my hormones seemed to settle and I began to reach normal again. I now have less and less depressed days, and more happy days. And I do not hesitate to reach out for help now when I need it.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety does not mean you're a bad parent. You need to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of someone else at your full potential. Do not be afraid to reach out!
Personal Struggles and Solutions
"I'm alone in the house with a fussy crying baby and I'm crying right along with her. At first we thought it was just the "baby blues", that this would pass and I would get out of this funk. But as days went on I felt more overwhelmed and much less happy than I had ever anticipated my first month home with baby would be.
Then came the excuses, the explanations: I'm just sleep deprived, I am not eating enough, maybe I just plain suck at being a mother! That last one is the one that I clung onto. And when my husband got home from work everyday he would hear about it. About how things just weren't clicking and how hard everyday was. How tired I was and how I didn't want to do anything. How I wanted to go back to work at a minimum wage job because I clearly was not cut out for this whole mommy thing. And he started to get it. My husband stepped up the help and the support. He told me I was a good mother while I stood crying holding my baby several nights a week, he held the baby while I slammed doors and threw fits.
Maybe I wasn't getting out enough. So when he could actually convince me to see other people I saw friends or left the house and I felt okay for a little while, sometimes, but then the feeling just kept coming back. And soon I started lashing out at Nick and that's when we knew it wasn't just a "funk" something was really wrong. But I kept denying it. Because I didn't want it to be true, because I was ashamed of how I felt. Because I felt guilty for not being able to shake this awful feeling, in spite of being absolutely blessed with Arya. I was so grateful for her but I spent a lot of my time thinking, "why did I have this baby?" and thinking about how selfish I was for bringing her into this world when clearly I wasn't doing anything but screwing her up!
Then I started to think that her world might be a better place if I wasn't in it... And then I got it.I had full blown postpartum depression (PPD) and I couldn't have felt any more ashamed of myself. I felt like it was my fault"
**To read the rest of Monique's Story check out her story here: Shame
"My experience going through PPD was an experience I thought that I would never go through. I honestly did not think that postpartum depression was a real thing and I never wanted to acknowledge that I was goinging through it .... The moment that I realized that I had depression was when I was going through so many symptoms of up-and-down anger. I had this one moment where I was so mad that I knew I had to put my baby down in her crib because she was crying. I started having these horrible thoughts. I remember walking away from her, shutting the door, going to my bedroom, and just staring at the window thinking about 'what is going on in my life now?'. It was a horrible, scary, moment and I knew right then that I needed help.
I felt unhappy then happy, sad then mad. I felt angry at my child, but I couldn't figure out why. Every day I wondered why. Why is this what I keep thinking? Why did I feel like this? Especially when I have this amazing blessing of a child in my life. I wouldn't eat and I couldn't sleep. It was quite an experience that scared me so bad and it took me six months to realize what I was going through. Finally, my mom spoke up and told me to go get help. I went to support groups, I would I posted on Facebook, I talked to other moms, and the overwhelming support I had, even from strangers that were new moms was amazing!! My words of wisdom to those who are going through it: know that there is a light! A light of where you're going to feel that happiness and that fulfillment of being a mom. You're not alone and this will end! It will! You just have to acknowledge it. Don't be scared to say you have postpartum depression. Please know that we are all here to support one another!"
Signs and Symptoms:
(Information provided by www.MotherBabyUniversity.com, iocdf.org and postpartum.net)
Often experienced in the first 3-14 days after birth. Baby blues affects as many as 60-80% of women.
Symptoms of the "baby blues" include:
Irritability and restlessness
Sudden mood changes - from excited one minute to crying the next
Feeling weepy and crying without any apparent reason
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Loss of appetite
With adequate in-home support, as well as being allowed more sleep by a support person, symptoms typically will go away within 2 weeks.
These can be in the first year after giving birth. Approximately 15-20% of women report having Postpartum Depression. PPD can be defined as Major or Minor. Major is a clinical diagnosis with defined requirements and clear treatment protocols. Minor depression still impairs the mother, but symptoms aren't as severe. There is less research on minor depression, and also not specific protocols in place for it. They are both real, and women suffering from either one should reach out for support!
In order to be considered a major depressive disorder, there must be at least 5 symptoms for at least 2 weeks :
Insomnia or hypersomnia
Psychomotor agitation or sluggishness
Changes in appetite
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Loss of interest in daily activities
Common emotions associated with PPD:
Lack of energy
Risk factors for perinatal depression include:
History of postpartum depression with a previous pregnancy
History of bipolar disorder or manic-depressive behaviors
Family history of postpartum depression
Premenstrual or oral contraceptive associated mood changes
Stressful life events
Lack of social support
Few socioeconomic resources
Poor coping skills
Single, separated, or divorced
Significant loss in the last year
Previous miscarriage or stillbirth
History of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
History of physical or sexual assault or abuse
History of severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Metabolic disorders such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, thyroiditis
Complications of pregnancy and delivery
Such as preterm or multiple births
Infant with congenital anomalies or health problems
Postpartum Psychosis can be extremely frightening for those who experience it and whose loved ones experience it. It often is sudden, and requires immediate medical management. When treated immediately and properly, women can completely recover from this disorder.
Symptom onset is often sudden and unexpected.
Symptoms usually occur within 48 hours to 2 weeks after giving birth.
The clinical presentation usually progresses rapidly after initial symptoms appear.
Postpartum psychosis differs from postpartum depression by the presence of:
This is the main feature of postpartum psychosis.
Hallucinations - visual, auditory, olfactory
May include commands to hurt oneself or the baby
Often includes religious themes
The risk of suicide is ~5%, and the risk of infanticide is ~4%
Postpartum Anxiety can be present by itself, or also accompany PPD. They are not the same disorder. Postpartum Anxiety can be increased with anti-depressants as well. Please ensure you seek a therapist who is able to distinguish between the two disorders in order to receive the best help for you!
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:
Feeling that something bad is going to happen.
Disturbances of sleep and appetite.
Inability to sit still.
Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea.
Postpartum OCD is an extreme variation of Postpartum Anxiety. Differing from typical OCD (with obsession of hygeine, order, contamination and hoarding), PPOCD typically is an obsession of certain thoughts. Obsessive thoughts can range from accidental harm (fear of SIDS and fear of falling from tall heights) all the way to obsessive thoughts about intentional harm (such as hurting the baby or yourself).
A mother suffering from postpartum OCD may become compulsive due to the obsessions. She may constantly check on the baby for fear of SIDS or constantly research for reassurance that her behavior is normal. She also may be afraid to be left alone with the baby, in fear of acting out on her obsessive thoughts about harming the child. While research shows nearly 80% of mothers do experience negative thoughts about their child or parenting, sufferers from OCD become obsessed with these thoughts.
Hiring the help of someone who is professional trained to help you get through your day with your new child can help lower your risk for postpartum mood disorders. Whether it is baby blues or full blown major depression, you no longer have to be in survival mode. Get the in-home support you need!
In person events can be found on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/LIVCOBirthCircle/
PINE REST Mother-Baby Day Treatment Program Grand Rapids The partial hospitalization day treatment program specializes in the treatment of pregnancy and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, allowing mothers to bring their babies to the daily program. Pine Rest Main Campus 300 68th Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 49548 Toll-free: 800-678-5500 (Calls to this number answered 24-hours-day, 7-days-week) Website: http://www.pinerest.org/mother-baby-postpartum-depression-treatment For more information, contact: Mother and Baby Program Staff (616)258-7509