Postpartum mood disorders are not unusual for a woman who has recently had a baby. Most of us have heard the term ‘postpartum depression’. The term describes a condition where women, after giving birth, can feel sad, lonely, overwhelmed or depressed. The disease can be debilitating to the point where the woman will not take care of the baby – or even herself. Postpartum depression can be severe or mild. Often referred to as the “baby blues” a mild case usually goes away on its own. In more severe cases the woman needs to seen by her physician. Counseling and/or medication could be recommended by the doctor.
Many people see postpartum mood disorders as conditions that will heal themselves. Not necessarily true. Left untreated, postpartum depression can become something much worse, effecting the mother physically and mentally; affecting the baby and family as well. Although the disease can onset as early as a few days after giving birth it could also show itself anytime within the first three months, generally.
Postpartum depression can exhibit signs of sleeplessness, loss of interest in family and friends, crying that can last for hours – or days, feelings of fatigue, and even thoughts of suicide. Some women even say that they have split-second thoughts of harming the baby. Wishing the baby just wasn’t born is another symptom.
When postpartum depression is left untreated and can become much more severe. Postpartum psychosis is a very serious illness that requires immediate medical attention. The suicide rate for postpartum psychosis is 5%. Death of infants from a mother suffering postpartum psychosis is estimated at 4%. Women with postpartum psychosis can have hallucinations, delusions, illogical thoughts, eating issues, anxiety, depression, periods of delirium or mania, as well as suicidal or homicidal thoughts.
Women with a personal or family history of bipolar disease, psychosis or schizophrenia are at a higher risk of suffering from postpartum psychosis. If the woman had a bout of postpartum psychosis after giving birth to a previous child the risk of her having it again is much higher still. Although fluctuating hormones generally take the blame for postpartum mood disorders other contributing factors could include low self-esteem, a lack of emotional or family support, financial problems, lack of sleep, and even stressful factors like moving or starting a new job.
Women suffering from postpartum depression or psychosis may not be able to diagnose themselves. The husband or boyfriend is often the closest person who can recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease. Postpartum depression is a serious issue; postpartum psychosis is an emergency. At any time a woman suffering from the latter could accidentally or purposefully hurt or kill herself and/or the baby. If you think the woman in your life suffers from one of these conditions seek help immediately. Women have made headlines and history after taking the lives of their children while others thought she simply had the “baby blues”.
With diagnosis of postpartum psychosis the woman may be hospitalized for a short period of time. It’s safest if she isn’t around the baby until illness is successfully treated. Treatments can include anti-psychotic drugs, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and counseling; the treatment is most always successful.
You, as a man, might be the first to recognize the signs of postpartum mood disorder. If your woman is crying for hours on end, tries to get you to do most of the care-taking of the baby, isn’t eating well, has a fever or comes right out and tells you she feels suicidal or feels like she will harm the baby, get her immediate medical attention. Don’t think that she’ll get better on her own in a few days. Don’t con yourself into thinking it will all be okay.
Just because the significant female in your life is crying after giving birth, or says she’s too tired to get up to get the crying baby, doesn’t necessarily mean she is suffering from a postpartum condition. Hormones play a big part in how a woman responds to the stress of having a new baby. It’s typical to cry sometimes, laugh other times. It’s typical to be exhausted and feel like you can’t go on. If you’re uncertain whether or not the woman has a medical condition schedule a visit to the doctor just in case. The life you save may be hers – and your baby’s!