Postpartum mood and anxiety concerns can be a very frightening and confusing experience. It is difficult, especially as a first time parent, to know what is and isn’t “normal” to be experiencing. Many of the symptoms of depression overlay with symptoms of pregnancy and the typical symptoms of being a parent to a newborn, such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and low libido. Furthermore, women and men can often feel hesitant to discuss these concerns given perceived expectations that new moms and dads should feel happy.
The “baby blues” or postpartum blues are very common, occurring in about 40-80% of women. This period starts within 2-3 days after delivery, and lasts for up to 2 weeks. It is characterized by mood swings, tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, sadness, difficulty with sleep and difficulty with concentration. I typically tell my patients that if they are tearful, and someone asks “why are you crying?” often times the response is “I don’t know!” However, if you feel that there are multiple negative events, and these events appear to be perceived in a more negative, distorted fashion than how you would typically view them, and these feelings persist past two weeks, then there needs to be careful consideration of post partum depression.
Post partum depression affects 8-15% of women, and 8-10% of men. It is caused by a combination of hormonal changes, genetic susceptibility, psychological, and social factors. It is very difficult to adjust to a completely new change in routine, especially if social support is not adequate. Post partum depression can manifest with different symptoms including, but not limited to:
- Changes in sleep, energy, appetite, weight and libido
- Sadness and feeling down
- Anxious ruminations, panic attacks
- Irritability and anger
- Feeling inadequate, overwhelmed or unable to care for baby
- Feeling ashamed, guilty, and feelings of failure
- Scary thoughts (ruminations about hurting self or baby)
Treatment including psychotherapy and/or medications for post partum mood and anxiety symptoms works. However, it can sometimes be a frustrating and time consuming process to find a psychiatrist or psychologist in a timely manner. I recommend not giving up on this process, however, given competent treatment can have a profound and positive impact on quality of life.
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