A new baby can bring up a wide range of feelings, from joy and delight to worry and dread. However, it can also have a side effect that is less obvious: depression.
Mood swings, weeping fits, anxiety, and inability to sleep are among symptoms of the postpartum “baby blues” that affect the majority of new mothers shortly after giving birth. The baby blues are a temporary state of depression that can affect new mothers for up to two weeks after giving birth, usually starting within the first few days.
However, postpartum depression affects some new mothers severely and persistently.
Sometimes, after giving birth, women might have a severe mental illness known as postpartum psychosis.
The rapid hormonal imbalance after giving birth increases the likelihood of postpartum psychosis. About one in every thousand mothers will be affected. Pregnancy for the first time, a family history of bipolar or psychotic disease, and the recent withdrawal of psychiatric medication are all risk factors.
Difference Between Postpartum Blue, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis
Different postpartum mental health conditions have been recognised by medical professionals. Here are some often used phrases:
After giving birth, anything from half to eighty-five per cent of women will feel depressed. Baby blues, often known as postpartum depression, are characterised by a cluster of symptoms, including:
- constant urge to cry
- being highly irritable
- feelings of anxiety
- rapid shifts in temperament
Postpartum depression is diagnosed when depressive symptoms persist for at least three weeks and interfere with daily life.
We commonly come across complaints regarding mood swings that are persistent and accompanied by thoughts of shame and worthlessness. Moreover, feelings of inadequacy, worry, disturbed sleep, exhaustion, and changes in food are some of the constitutional symptoms.
Suicidal ideation is another symptom of postpartum depression in women.
Medical professionals often regard postpartum psychosis as having the most devastating impact on mental health.
It’s normal for a new mother to have feelings of despair, worry, and anxiety. These people should get care when their symptoms continue or when they start having suicidal ideas.
Postpartum Psychosis: Risk Factors
While some women can develop postpartum psychosis with no risk factors, several characteristics are known to raise a woman’s risk for the disease. They include a history of bipolar disorder, history of schizoaffective disease or schizophrenia, family history of postpartum psychosis or bipolar illness, history of postpartum psychosis in a prior pregnancy, and cessation of psychiatric medicines for pregnancy and first pregnancy.
The specific reasons for postpartum psychosis aren’t understood.
Doctors know that all women in postpartum time are experiencing variable hormone levels. However, individuals tend to be more susceptible to the mental health consequences of hormone changes, including oestrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones.
Many additional components of health can impact the causes of postpartum psychosis, such as genetics, culture, and environmental and physiological variables. Lack of sleep may also play a role.
Postpartum Psychosis: Symptoms
There is evidence that some women who develop postpartum psychosis have a preexisting mental health condition. However, the vast majority have never experienced any mental health issues before.
After giving birth, psychosis can occur as early as a few weeks later. This sort of thing typically occurs unexpectedly. When you’re trying to get back on your feet after giving birth, it can be challenging to figure out if the symptoms you’re experiencing are temporary or indicative of anything more severe. This is why having a supportive friend or family member around in the first few weeks is crucial.
Moms may experience various signs and symptoms. However, the following are examples of what they may be:
- Unstable moods
- Experiencing delusions
- The enhancement of energy or libido
- Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or experiencing imaginary things)
- Distancing Yourself from Your Baby
- Low mood, anxiety, or bewilderment
- Extreme sleeplessness
- Feelings of paranoia and suspicion
Postpartum Psychosis: How to Avoid It?
Psychosis after giving birth is a life-threatening condition.
Around one in twenty pregnant women will consider harming themselves or their unborn child. It has been found that for at least a year following giving birth, a woman’s suicide risk significantly increases.
Therefore, it’s crucial to be prepared for any eventuality, both during and after giving birth.
In The Antenatal Period:
- Discuss the potential dangers with your doctor. They may recommend you see a perinatal psychiatrist for help.
- Talk to other mothers who have experienced postpartum psychosis on online forums.
- Inform your doctor and other healthcare providers if there is a history of bipolar illness or postpartum psychosis in your family.
- As you might be unable to spot the signs in yourself, inform your spouse or loved ones to be on the lookout for them.
- Prepare for the possibility that you won’t be able to care for your other children after giving birth by making appropriate arrangements in advance.
- Pregnant women should keep a journal of their feelings.
In The Postnatal Period:
- Maintain a schedule of checks with your doctor.
- Journal your feelings.
- Seek assistance from loved ones in managing household chores.
- Aim for a good night’s rest.
- Keep guests to a minimum, especially in the beginning.
- Ask your significant other or a close friend to watch your actions.
- If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, there’s no need to beat yourself up over it.
Postpartum Psychosis: Treatment
The hospital is the typical setting for medical care. Mother and baby units are specialised psychiatric facilities where you and your baby can get treatment together (MBU). On the other hand, you could have to wait to be admitted to an MBU and instead be placed in a standard psychiatric hospital.
Possible medications administered to you can include:
- Antipsychotics are used to treat psychotic disorders such as delusions and hallucinations accompanying mania.
- Antidepressants: given alone or in combination with a mood stabiliser, can help alleviate symptoms of depression if they are severe.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
It may be suggested when other treatments have failed, or the patient’s life is in imminent danger. If appropriately treated, most women with postpartum psychosis will recover fully.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of talk therapy that may help you progress through your healing process (CBT). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) aims to help people solve their issues by altering their patterns of thought and behaviour.
It’s essential to understand that postpartum psychosis is a severe condition, and it can be challenging to accept your experience as you heal.
It may be beneficial to talk to people who have had similar experiences or the same condition.
Psychosis following childbirth often resolves itself over a few months, but it can sometimes continue for years. Women willing to discuss their mental health issues and get treatment from peripartum psychiatrists and medicines are more likely to experience a positive outcome.
Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency that requires prompt medical attention for a transient but curable condition. Do not feel guilty or responsible if you or a loved one gets diagnosed with this condition. Get in touch with a medical professional as soon as possible.