Information about Postpartum Mood Disorders
There are a variety of postpartum mood disorders ranging from mild to very severe. Although researchers disagree about the exact cause of PPD, it is clear that hormonal changes, past history of depression, lack of support and life stress can all play a part.
Experienced by 60–80% of mothers, the baby blues are characterized by weepiness, irritability, fatigue, and feelings of vulnerability. The baby blues typically start during the first week after the birth and last up to 3 weeks. Usually these feelings go away on their own as the mother’s hormone levels stabilize and she becomes more accustomed to life with the new baby.
Postpartum depression affects 10–20% of mothers and is more severe than the baby blues. Mothers with postpartum depression may experience:
- feelings of excessive guilt, inadequacy, fear, or sadness;
- sleep difficulties;
- inability to concentrate;
- lack of feeling toward the baby;
- otherwise inexplicable physical symptoms such as headaches or rapid heart rate;
- change in appetite.
Postpartum depression can occur any time during the first year after the birth. Women with postpartum depression typically respond very well to treatment with therapy and/or medication.
Postpartum psychosis is quite rare, affecting only 0.1% of mothers, but it is very serious. Symptoms may include confusion or disorientation, delusions, hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid or irrational speech. These symptoms typically occur within the first week after the birth and require immediate medical attention, which may include hospitalization and/or anti-psychotic medication.
- Postpartum Support International’s “Local and Regional Assistance” Brochure
- “Beyond the Blues—A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression,” by Shoshana S. Bennett, Ph.D., and Pec Indman, Ed.D., MFT
- “Postpartum Adjustment: A Guide for New Mothers” Brochure by Melisa M. Schuster, LMSW