Coastal Pediatric Associates Coastal Pediatric Associates

Your Emotional Well-being

Along with the joy of giving birth to a baby, many mothers experience some kind of let down.  This may range from baby blues to clinical depression to psychotic depression.  The difference lies in the nature and intensity of these feelings as well as how long they last.  Studies have shown that women are more likely to develop these problems following the delivery of a baby than at any other time in their lives.

Risk Factors for Postpartum Mood Disorder

  • Hormonal changes after delivery      
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Financial problems
  • Tension in relationships
  • Medical complications
  • Unrealistic expectations about mothering
  • Prior loss of baby
  • Fussy or difficult baby
  • Fertility problems prior to pregnancy

Baby Blues

Many mothers may doubt themselves and their ability to be a good mother to their newborn.  They wonder what is wrong, may be tearful or easily irritated, or anxious and ultra-sensitive.    They may be exhausted, have trouble concentrating or sleeping and may feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities.     Such feelings occur in almost all women who have delivered a baby (89%).  The “blues” usually begin around the third or fourth day after delivery and can last from a few hours to a week.  Such feelings usually fade without treatment.

Postpartum Clinical Depression

When the “blues” continue beyond two weeks and worsen, postpartum depression is probably developing.  This is not uncommon and happens to 10-20% of postpartum women.  Postpartum depression symptoms can appear any time during the first few months and up to one year after deliver.

 Symptoms of Postpartum Depression may include:

  • Loss of identity
  • Complete loss of control
  • Feeling withdrawn, isolated and lonely
  • Change in appetite
  • Overwhelming exhaustion
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Thoughts of hurting your baby or self
  • The need to keep moving or pacing
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Mood swings
  • Incapacitating anxiety or doubt
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Overly concerned about cleanliness/germs and health and safety of your baby
  • Feeling the need to “jump out of your skin”

These feeling and experiences may lead you to become possessive of your baby or disengage from your baby.  This poses a risk to the physical and emotional safety of your baby.  If untreated, these symptoms can last up to one year.  There are several treatment options including psychotherapy, medication and/or support groups.  Mothers who receive treatment usually respond extremely well.

Postpartum Psychosis

This reaction is rare (found in only 0.1% of new mothers) and involves a major disturbance in how the mother views reality.  Symptoms include:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Refusal to eat
  • Delusions
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Rapid or nonsense speech

These signs usually start within 3 to 14 days after delivery.  The mother’s ability to care for her baby is greatly impaired, placing the infant at serious risk.  Immediate medical attention is necessary involving anti-psychotic medication, usually in an inpatient setting.

Finding Help

When you or someone you know shows signs of postpartum mood disorder, it is important to seek professional help.  If untreated, this can negatively affect your functioning and your baby’s development.

A new mother needs support to believe in herself and her abilities as a mother.  Your spouse, partner, extended family, friends and even hired help can provide support during this time.

Resources:

Discuss any symptoms you are experiencing a medical professional.  You should ask for a referral to a mental health professional who works with postpartum adjustment challenges.  A list of mental health providers can be found at www.ppdsupport.org .

Individual Support:

Postpartum Support Charleston offers email, phone and one on one support. 

Warm Line:  843.410.3585

Email:  contact@ppdsupport.org

Postpartum Support International:  800.944.4773

Emergency Resources:

Palmetto Lowcountry Behavioral Health:  843.747.5830
Lowcountry Transitions at Trident Medical Center:  843.847.3010
MUSC Women’s Health:  843.792.5300
Emergency Services:  911

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  • ECMC: Colliton
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