When motherhood doesn’t feel like you thought it would, you could be suffering from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder.
Are you feeling sad or depressed?
Do you feel more irritable or angry with your baby?
Do you feel anxious or panicky?
Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?
Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?
Do you feel as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”?
Do you feel like you never should have become a mother?
Are you worried that you might hurt yourself or your baby?
You should know that it is not your fault, and you can feel better.
We’re here to help.
What are Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders?
It is very common for moms to experience the “baby blues” — a two week period where many new mothers experience mood instability, exhaustion, sleep problems, and crying. If the baby blues worsen or last longer than two weeks after delivery, you may be suffering from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder.
Postpartum mood & anxiety disorders are serious illnesses and a significant health concern. It is thought to be related to an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain caused by hormonal changes after the delivery of a child and made worse by the stress of a major life change.
Research has shown that postpartum mood disorders pose significant risks for the child’s cognitive, social and emotional development and can impact school readiness. In addition, anxious and depressive symptoms lead to difficulties in the mother-infant and father-mother relationships.
Approximately 15-20% of all new mothers develop symptoms consistent with depression or anxiety. Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and through the first 12 months after childbirth.
Although the term “postpartum depression” or “PPD” is most often used, there are actually several forms of illness that women may experience, including:
Depression during pregnancy and postpartum
A woman with PPD might experience feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or herself. Learn more about PPD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/depression-during-pregnancy-postpartum/
Anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum
A woman with PPA may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling. Learn more about PPA, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/anxiety-during-pregnancy-postpartum/
Pregnancy or postpartum (OCD)
Women with PPOCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These moms find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them. Learn more about PPOCD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-or-postpartum-obsessive-symptoms/
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PPTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth or past trauma, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event. Learn more about PPTSD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/
Bipolar Mood Disorders
There are two phases of a bipolar mood disorder: the lows and the highs. Many women are diagnosed for the first time with bipolar depression or mania during pregnancy or postpartum. Bipolar mood disorder can appear as a severe depression; women need informed evaluation and follow-up on past and current mood changes and cycles to assess whether there is a bipolar dynamic. Sometimes it is more apparent to friends and families than to the individual. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/bipolar-mood-disorders/
PPP sufferers sometimes see and hear voices or images that others can’t, called hallucinations. They may believe things that aren’t true and distrust those around them. They may also have periods of confusion and memory loss, and seem manic. This severe condition is dangerous so it is important to seek help immediately. Learn more about PPP, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. For more information: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/
Should I Get Help?
Yes, you should seek help. Help is available.
Your symptoms are not likely to go away soon. Half of all mothers who develop postpartum mood and anxiety disorders continue to have serious symptoms when their baby turns 1 year old.
Where Can I Get help?
There are many people who can help you. Talk with your doctor or nurse. Inform them about how you are feeling and schedule an appointment to see your doctor.
What Will My Doctor Do?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your mood and may request some blood tests to rule out medical conditions. He/she will discuss treating your depression through counseling, medication or a combination of both.
How Long Will These Feelings Last?
It’s hard to say. Some women feel better within a few weeks, but others feel depressed or “not themselves” for many months. Women who have more severe symptoms or who have had symptoms of these disorders in the past may take longer to get better. Just remember that help is available and you can get better.
Additional Things You Can Do
Ask the father, other family members, or friends for help with the baby, cooking, cleaning and running errands. Do something for yourself like go for a walk, exercise, take a shower or hot bath, spend time with a friend, or play your favorite music.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, & get enough sleep. The birth of the baby is stressful on mothers and fathers. Seek counseling for yourself if you experience depression or other emotional challenges.
Signs Of Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Frequent crying spells
Feelings of sadness, anxiety, worthlessness, hopelessness
Lack of energy to do everyday tasks
Difficulty sleeping even when your baby is asleep
Sense of stress that interferes with caring for yourself, the baby, or family
Loss of interest in food or thinking too much about eating
Loss of interest in caring for yourself
Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
Difficulty making decisions
Loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
Too much anxiety about the baby
Lack of interest in the baby
Fears or thoughts of harming the baby
Thoughts of harming or killing yourself
Self-testing for Depression
The scale can be used during your pregnancy and again after your baby is two weeks old.You can check to see if you’re depressed by filling out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Click here to download a PDF of this scale.
Print out the scale.
Answer each question.
Add the numbers to the left of the boxes.
If you score 10 or greater, seek help by contacting the ECHO office at 719-276-6174, or let your doctor know.