Postpartum mood disorders (PPMD) occur in women during pregnancy or within the first year after childbirth. These mood disorders may include depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, bipolar or psychosis. A postpartum mood disorder is different than the “baby blues” which affect up to 80% of new mothers and have symptoms lasting only a few days or weeks. These symptoms may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, inability to cope, oversensitivity, crying spells, confusion or feelings of loneliness. If these symptoms worsen or do not go away within about two weeks after giving birth, the “baby blues” may have developed into a PPMD.
Treatment options include individual or couple’s therapy, support groups, medication and practical assistance with all of the demands of caring for a newborn child (amongst other responsibilities). Many women also find that it can be very helpful to make sure they are getting enough rest, relaxing or taking some “me” time every day, eating well and exercising. PPMDs are almost always treatable.
PPMDs can add to the stress of having a newborn baby and make many new mothers feel guilty for not feeling completely “happy” after the birth of their child. It is important for new mothers to remember that postpartum disorders are not their fault or the fault of their baby and that they will get better. One of the best things new mothers (with or without PPMDs) can do is make sure they are taking care of themselves and their own health and needs.
There are a number of support groups and communities available for women with postpartum disorders. They provide connections, resources and assistance for these new mothers and their families.