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Focusing on your Mental Health Postpartum

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

This week the world celebrated World Mental Health Day! It serves as a reminder to take some time for yourself while also destigmatizing mental health challenges.

Having a child can trigger many powerful emotions. The expectation is that all of the emotions will be positive, like excitement and joy; however, feelings of fear and anxiety can also be thrown into the mix. It can also result in something you might not expect at all — depression. Here are some forms of depression that moms may experience after childbirth.

Baby Blues

According to the Mayo Clinic Most new moms experience what is known as the postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last for up to two weeks.

Symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Sadness

  • Irritability

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Crying

  • Reduced concentration

  • Appetite problems

  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum Depression

Some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first, but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer.

The symptoms can become so severe that they may begin to interfere with your ability to care for your baby and yourself. Symptoms typically develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but in some cases can begin during pregnancy or up to a year after birth.

Symptoms may include:

  • 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

  • Hopelessness

  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy

  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

  • Restlessness

  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum Psychosis

Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, seek medical help as soon as possible:

  • Confusion and disorientation

  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby

  • Hallucinations and delusions

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Excessive energy and agitation

  • Paranoia

  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors and requires immediate treatment.

We spoke with several new moms that were experiencing the above symptoms and here are some ways that they were treated for depression.

  • Prescription medicine

    • Always talk to a doctor before you start taking — or stop taking — any medicines during your pregnancy.

    • If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor.

    • Don't stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse.

    • Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.

  • Talk therapy.

    • Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy.

    • Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you're going through also can help.

    • Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.

  • Other approaches

    • Many find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation.

    • If you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.

  • Contact a 24/7 helpline

    • If you need someone to talk to, today or any other, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

    • If you are experiencing Postpartum symptoms reach out to your doctor or call the Postpartum International hotline: 1-800-944-4773 or text “help” to 800-944-4773

Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. When unsure about what you are experiencing, always ask for help.

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