After spending the better part of a year growing a human being, it’s common for many new moms to experience changes in mood or feelings in the days, weeks, and months after delivery.
While emotional shifts are common, some may be more concerning. During this time, healthcare providers should be monitoring women for emotional complications following pregnancy, but it’s the women who experience them who will be the first to notice shifts in their moods. Three significant mood changes it’s important to be able to tell the difference between are baby blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis.
Baby blues can affect up to 80% of new mothers, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The baby blues can involve feelings of sadness or moodiness, and tend to last a week or two following delivery and go away on their own. Although the baby blues can make a person feel depressed, a clinical diagnosis of postpartum depression requires a different set of criteria.
The March of Dimes defines postpartum depression as “strong feelings of sadness, anxiety (worry), and tiredness that last for a long time after giving birth,” and make caring for oneself and one’s baby difficult. Although these feelings may resemble the baby blues, postpartum depression lasts longer (two weeks or more) and is typically more intense and disrupts functioning.
Postpartum depression can present in many ways, and often involves trouble sleeping (beyond that expected for the parent of a newborn), mood swings, irritability, and crying spells, among other symptoms.
Current estimates state that postpartum depression affects about 1 in 7 new moms, but women with a history of depression are more likely to develop it than others. If you know that you may be more likely to develop PPD, it’s a good idea to share your concerns with your healthcare provider beforehand.
According to the Mayo Clinic, postpartum psychosis is “a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery,” with symptoms that are more severe than those of postpartum depression. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia, which in rare cases can ultimately result in attempts to harm oneself or one’s baby.
Postpartum psychosis is rare (it affects 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 postpartum mothers), but its effects can put both moms and their babies at great risk. It’s important to seek treatment if you notice yourself experiencing anything like those listed above. Healthcare providers can help.
The bottom line
Postpartum mood disorders can be debilitating, dangerous, and add difficulty to moms’ day-to-day lives during an already tumultuous time. Even the baby blues, which most new moms experience, can cause feelings of sadness that make life more difficult. It’s important to remember that postpartum mood disorders are treatable – but first, they need to be recognized as needing treatment.
If you have a history of depression or other risk factors that could impact your postpartum mental health, discuss these concerns with your healthcare provider, so that they can help you better monitor your mental health before giving birth and in the weeks and months after.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 11 2015. Retrieved July 2 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376623.
- Rachel VanderKruik, et al. “The global prevalence of postpartum psychosis: a systematic review.” BMC Psychiatry. 17:272. July 28 2017. Retrieved July 2 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5534064/.
- “Postpartum depression.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, May 2018. Retrieved July 2 2018. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/postpartum-depression.aspx.
- “Postpartum depression facts.” National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved July 2 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml.