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What in the Postpartum?! Part 4, Postpartum Blues, Depression, and Psychosis

Updated: May 17, 2022

As much as you prepare and as much support as you have, postpartum can still be a heavy season at times. There are many hormonal fluctuations postpartum that can cause hormone induced disturbances. There are three different variations of conditions that can come up postpartum during these changes, they are called postpartum blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. It is important to reach out to your care provider as soon as you think you may be experiencing any symptoms. Each of these conditions can look different from woman to woman, it may look different for you than what your friend described experiencing, that is okay. Each condition is outlined below.


 

Postpartum Blues

Postpartum blues, also known as baby blues, is most common in the earliest days postpartum and can last up to two weeks. It is associated with the following:

  • mood swings

  • feelings of sadness

  • feelings of anxiety

  • feeling overwhelmed

  • crying spells

  • difficulties sleeping

  • loss of appetite

Baby blues is something that is experienced by many women to different extents. If you think that this is something that you are dealing with, be sure to talk openly about it with someone in your support system, including your care provider.


Postpartum Depression

Around 1 in 7 to 1 in 10 women experience postpartum depression. It is most commonly experienced in the first few months postpartum but can arise anytime within the entire first year. At first, postpartum depression can look very similar to baby blues, but the symptoms don't subside. The symptoms outlined below can also help differentiate postpartum depression from baby blues;

  • persistent feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness

  • feelings of failure as a mother

  • lack of interest in activities that you usually enjoy

  • daily activities affected by intense feelings of anguish (self-care, eating, or sleeping)

  • panic/anxiety attacks

  • thoughts of self-harm

  • thoughts of harming the baby

  • withdrawing from partner or other people within your support group

  • difficulties bonding with baby as a result of your symptoms

Medical treatment is needed in order to resolve postpartum depression in most cases. Untreated postpartum depression has the potential to leave lasting negative affects on the mother and the baby.


Postpartum Psychosis

Although rare, occurring in 1 in 1,000 women after delivery, postpartum psychosis is considered a medical emergency. Usually signs of postpartum psychosis emerge within the first two weeks postpartum. The rate of suicide with postpartum psychosis is 5% and the rate of infanticide is 4%. A previous psychotic episode and a family history bipolar disorder are the two biggest risk factors for postpartum psychosis. Symptoms can include:

  • strange beliefs/delusions

  • hallucinations

  • hyperactivity

  • inability to sleep or feeling a lack of need for sleep

  • paranoia

  • rapid mood swings

  • difficulty communicating

With the severe symptoms of postpartum psychosis it is incredibly important that you reach out to your care provider if you think you have ANY symptoms of postpartum psychosis.

 

Postpartum looks different for every woman and not every woman experiences any of the three postpartum conditions at all. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of each so that you can recognize them in yourself should you need to. I am not putting information out like this because postpartum should be scary and hard, only as a resource as needed. While many women experience any of the three conditions above many also don't. Please do not feel guilty if you get through postpartum without experiencing so much as baby blues. Please do not feel shame if you have to go through something as traumatic as postpartum psychosis. Postpartum is full of changes and hormonal shifts, continue to give yourself grace as you make it through any or all hurdles.


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