Lady Gaga. Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock via People Magazine
With her message of encouragement and awareness surrounding mental health, we want to take a minute to reflect on maternal mental health and the importance of understanding, empowering, and normalizing the stigma behind perinatal and postpartum mental health by speaking up and sharing statistics. BECAUSE, MAMA, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
- Are you feeling sad or depressed?
- Do you feel more irritable or angry with those around you?
- Are you having difficulty bonding with your baby?
- Do you feel anxious or panicky?
- Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?
- Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?
- Do you feel as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”?
- Do you feel like you never should have become a mother?
- Are you worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself?
These are questions where your answers could indicate that you have a form of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, such as postpartum depression, says Postpartum Support International, which also states there are "several forms of illness that women may experience" during pregnancy or postpartum, including the following:
- Depression during pregnancy and postpartum
- Anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum
- Pregnancy or postpartum OCD
- Postpartum post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar mood disorders
- Postpartum psychosis
According to UNC School of Medicine, 50-85% of women feel postpartum blues or “Baby Blues” for a short time, usually 1-3 weeks after delivery (UNC School of Medicine, 2019). Common symptoms of “Baby Blues” can be mood instability, depressed mood, weepiness, sadness, irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration and feelings of dependency (UNC School of Medicine, 2019). Symptoms of “Baby Blues” usually subside 1-3 weeks after delivery; these symptoms are often self-limited and are to be distinguished from a more severe condition often called Postpartum Depression (PPD) which has increased severity and duration of symptoms (UNC School of Medicine, 2019).
There are more than 3 MILLION cases of postpartum depression (depression that occurs after childbirth) that occur each year and occur in up to 10% of births (UNC School of Medicine, 2019). It typically emerges over the first 2-3 months after childbirth but may occur at any point after delivery. Symptoms of PPD last for more than 2 weeks (UNC School of Medicine, 2019). Symptoms may include insomnia, feeling sad, depressed, and/or crying a lot, intense anxiety, rumination, obsessions, loss of interest in usual activities, feelings of guilt, worthlessness or incompetence, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, change in appetite, poor concentration, feeling inadequate to cope with new infant, excessive worry about baby’s health, suicidal thoughts, intense irritability, and difficulty bonding with the baby (The Mayo Clinic, 2019 and UNC School of Medicine, 2019).
Another form of Postpartum Depression is Postpartum Psychosis, which "is a serious illness that can be severe and life threatening. The psychotic symptoms include delusions (thoughts that are not based in reality), hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there) or disorganized thinking. Often mothers who develop postpartum psychosis are having a severe episode of a mood disorder, usually bipolar (manic-depression) disorder with psychotic features. It is essential for women to get evaluation and treatment immediately" (UNC School of Medicine, 2019).
"Postpartum anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder appear to be as common as postpartum depression and even coincide with depression. Perinatal anxiety symptoms can include the following: panic attacks, hyperventilation, excessive worry, restless sleep, and repeated thoughts or images of frightening things happening to the baby" (UNC School of Medicine, 2019).
According to Postpartum Support International, perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorders are also something new moms may be susceptible to (also know as perinatal or postpartum OCD). "Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal disorders. You do not have to be diagnosed with OCD to experience these common symptoms of perinatal anxiety. It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers and some new fathers will experience these symptoms. The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come “out of the blue.” Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional, and have very low risk of being acted upon. It is far more likely that the parent with this symptom takes steps to avoid triggers and avoid what they fear is potential harm to the baby" (PSI, 2019). Symptoms of perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms can include "obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced before; compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, check things many times, count or reorder things; a sense of horror about the obsession; fear of being left alone with the infant; hyper-vigilance in protecting the infant...moms with postpartum OCD know that their thoughts are bizarre and are very unlikely to ever act on them," (PSI, 2019) which makes it a separate disorder than postpartum depression, anxiety, or psychosis.
To learn more about various maternal mental health issues, such as postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and bipolar mood disorders, click here, where Postpartum Support International goes into further detail and support resources.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH MOTHERHOOD. YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR THOUGHTS. YOU ARE NOT UNWORTHY OF FEELING "NORMAL" AGAIN. THIS TOO SHALL PASS, WITH HELP. SEEK IT - ASK FOR IT, REACH OUT, BE PROACTIVE