Emotions run high following any birth. Especially with a first baby, in addition to joy, a new mother may feel anxious and fearful due to a lack of experience in caring for her newborn. No mother expects to be sad following the birth of a child, but about fifty percent of new mothers experience Baby Blues.
Worry, unexplained bouts of crying, a slow physical recovery and lack of sleep impact postpartum emotional states. Usually the rollercoaster emotions resolve within two to three weeks, but some women are left with prolonged unexplained sadness. Pregnant women often joyfully await the birth and are caught off guard by serious emotional changes ranging from the blues to prolonged depression and even psychosis.
Emotional swings extending beyond a few weeks mean Postpartum Depression and require medical attention. This prolonged depression following delivery is associated with physiological, social and psychological changes. Symptoms may begin immediately following the birth and increase if untreated. About 1 in 10 new mothers experience postpartum depression. Once experienced, the percentage rises with each baby thereafter.
Intense mood changes and inability to bond with the baby can swing to fears she might harm herself or the newborn. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite, lost interest in being around others, hopelessness and inadequacy compounded with panic attacks and inability to make decisions. Seeking professional help is essential if these symptoms last longer than a month.
Antidepressants and counseling are very effective.
A third more serious but less common condition affecting 1 in 1000 women is Postpartum Psychosis. Symptoms beginning within a week can include rapid speech, insomnia, manic behaviors, obsessive thoughts, agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations. This condition requires immediate medical intervention for dangerous life-threatening behaviors including attempts to inflict self-harm or harm to the baby.
Call for Help
A phone call and follow-up care from your medical provider is important when depression persists, or in the case of psychosis, immediate care is needed. Prolonged depression of any nature is serious. If untreated, it can affect the entire family. Because of added financial and parenting responsibilities associated with a new baby, fathers can experience depression following a birth, too. Untreated depression in either parent impacts other children in the family.
More information is available on the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic websites.
Betty and Bev