Part 2 in the series on Post-Partum Depression and PMD (Originally posted April 4, 2011)
by Gretchen Johnson, BSN, RN-BC
Many women can relate to the emotional roller coaster that dominates the first few weeks after a baby is born—and who wouldn’t be a mess? You’re sore, sleep deprived, in a totally new role (even if this is not your first child), your hormones are out of wack and you have little time to take care of yourself. The term “baby blues” is often used to refer to the mild mood swings that occur after the birth of a child. Nearly 80% of women express experiencing baby blues. Having the baby blues is NOT a disorder. It is completely normal.
Perinatal mood disorders are common (15-20% of women)…but NOT normal. So how do you know if you or a loved one is experiencing something more serious than the baby blues?
The Baby Blues usually has an onset of about one week postpartum and lasts about three weeks. Symptoms include moodiness, tearfulness, anxiety, inability to concentrate, and sadness. These feelings come and go and the predominant mood is actually happiness.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Anxiety (about 15% of women) have an onset any time until one year after the baby is born and lasts longer than three weeks. The highest time of risk for new mothers is six months after delivery. Symptoms include excessive worry, sadness, guilt, hopelessness, sleep problems, fatigue, loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, change in appetite, irritability, and difficulty making decisions.
Postpartum Psychosis occurs in 1-4 per thousand women. 5% of these women commit suicide and 4% commit infanticide. Women with postpartum psychosis experience hallucinations, delusions, and confusion.
Just as you can be proactive about the physical health of the baby and mother, you can also make preparations during pregnancy to take care of the new mom’s (or your own) emotional and mental health. This is crucial and can help combat PPD. Things that can be done include:
• Get support - bring meals, clean house, hold the baby while the new mom takes a nap, be there to talk and listen
• Eliminate stress - let things go that are causing worry
• Talk openly- encourage the new mom to share her needs and how she is doing
• Follow a healthy diet
While perinatal mood disorders are not normal, they are also NOT a sign of weakness. Every mother deserves to enjoy her new baby. If you or someone you love is suffering, get help. For local resources visit our Mother and Baby Program web page or www.healthykent.org and look for the PMD resource manual under “infant health”. A great place to find help nationwide is by visiting www.postpartum.net.
Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, is the Mother and Baby Partial Hospitalization Clinical Services Manager and coordinator in this program’s development. She is a member of the Healthy Kent 2020 Perinatal Mood Disorder Coalition, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the Psychiatric Nursing Council of Southwest Michigan.