Many women experience significant postpartum symptoms. It is important to realize that these disorders are not self induced. A woman cannot “pull herself together” any more than she could if she had the flu, diabetes, or any other physical illness. Some women experience these symptoms during pregnancy, following a miscarriage, or termination of pregnancy. A woman experiencing any of these symptoms described on this site should have a complete medical evaluation, including thyroid screening.
- Baby Blues
- Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder
- Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Postpartum Psychosis
Baby blues is experienced by up to 80% of new mothers. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling let down
- Crying for no apparent reason
Symptoms occur in the first weeks, are unpleasant but brief, and usually disappear on their own.
Postpartum depression is experienced by 1 of 5 new mothers.
Symptoms may include:
- Frequent sadness or crying
- Changes in appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Intense fatigue with low mood
- Emotional numbness
- Feelings of helplessness and despair
- Irritability, surges of anger
- Feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame
- Difficulty concentrating, indecisiveness
- Frightening feelings
- Repetitive fears, thoughts or images
- Overconcern for your baby
- Lack of interest in sex
- Lack of feelings for your baby
- Exaggerated high or low moods
- Dramatic changes in your feelings ranging from sadness to thoughts of suicide
Symptoms can occur within days of the delivery or appear gradually within the first year.
Some women may not feel depressed, but may feel very anxious. This is known as Postpartum Anxiety and/or Panic Disorder. Symptoms may include:
- intense anxiety and/or fear
- rapid heart rate
- sense of doom, or overwhelming dread
- hot or cold flashes
- chest pain
Symptoms can occur suddenly with days of the delivery or appear gradually within the first year.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can occur for the first time in women following childbirth. If a woman has a history of OCD, her symptoms may intensify. Symptoms may include:
- repetitive behavior
- excessive cleaning
- intrusive, repetitive thoughts (possibly even thoughts of harming the baby and/or self)
- avoiding the baby and/or other people, along with negative stimuli such as intense or scary movies or TV programs, bad news or stories, to alleviate intrusive thoughts.
These thoughts are often scary and are usually out of character for the woman. A woman having thoughts of hurting the baby is very unlikely to follow through as they are only thoughts and not urges or desires.
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe and fortunately, in the rarest postpartum reaction. It occurs in about 1 in 1000 women, usually within the first three weeks after the birth. Symptoms are very exaggerated. The woman will experience a break with reality. Symptoms may include:
- severe insomnia
- bizarre feelings and behavior
Postpartum psychosis is a serious emergency and requires immediate medical help.
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