Postpartum Recovery (Part 2): Understanding Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

mother and baby

In the previous blog, we covered the physical symptoms you can expect to experience during your postpartum recovery. Let’s take a minute to talk about postpartum depression. Experts estimate that up to 85% of women will experience some form of “baby blues” following the delivery of their baby. As many as 1 in 5 women will go on to be diagnosed with postpartum depression, a longer lasting depression that is very treatable when working in conjunction with your care team.

What is Postpartum Psychosis?

A very serious condition called postpartum psychosis impacts 0.1% of postpartum women. While having a pre-existing mental health diagnosis increases your chances of experiencing postpartum depression, there are many people with zero pre-existing depression that will experience postpartum mood changes and other psychiatric symptoms. It’s important to know the difference between these conditions, and what to watch out for that signals the need for emergent intervention.

Baby Blues

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Feelings of sadness
    • Fatigue and/or nausea
    • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping, even when the baby is sleeping
    • Missing your “old life” before the baby arrived
    • Weepiness or crying, at times for no clear reason
    • Impatience and irritability
    • Mood changes
    • Restlessness
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Typically peaks at day 3 with hormonal changes
  • How long does it usually last?
    The “baby blues” typically last anywhere from a few days, up to two weeks. If your symptoms persist beyond two weeks, or get worse instead of better after the first week, you may be experiencing postpartum depression and should contact your healthcare provider.

Postpartum Depression

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Feeling sad or down often
    • Frequent crying or tearfulness
    • Feeling restless, irritable, or anxious
    • Easily frustrated, or feelings of rage
    • Loss of appetite
    • Less energy and motivation to do things
    • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual
    • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
    • Unexplained weight loss or gain
    • Feeling like life isn’t worth living
    • Showing little interest in your baby
    • Not feeling attached to your baby
    • Intrusive thoughts about harm coming to the baby or the baby getting hurt
  • How long does it usually last?
    Postpartum depression can last for months or years postpartum, especially if left untreated. It’s important to have a plan in place if you have a history of depression, as you will have an increased likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression.

Postpartum Anxiety

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Excessive worry about the baby and its safety or wellbeing
    • Intrusive thoughts about harm to the baby or “worst case scenarios” including things that are highly unlikely to happen.
    • Worry that interferes with your ability to calm down and persists throughout the day.
    • Fears that may seem irrational to others but feel very real to you.
    • Feeling like you could never trust someone else to care for your baby.
    • Feeling panic or heart palpitations any time you have to be separate from your baby even for small tasks like taking a shower.
    • Insomnia or unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps because you are worried about baby’s breathing, safety, wellbeing, etc.
  • What to expect?
    Some worry is expected after having a baby, but postpartum anxiety comes with excessive worrying, nervousness, and/or panic.
    If the amount of worry and nervousness you feel is interrupting your ability to enjoy your baby, or you are having persistent thoughts of things that are unlikely to happen, talk to your provider.

Psychiatric Emergency

  • What are the symptoms?
    • Can include any of the symptoms of postpartum depression plus additional difficulties such as:
    • Thoughts about harming yourself or the baby
    • Chronic insomnia and lack of sleep
    • Feeling confused or lost
    • Feeling paranoid
    • Obsessive thoughts about the baby’s well-being
    • May have hallucinations or delusions
    • May start to feel like there are messages only you can receive or things only you can see
    • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
    • May stop making sense to others
    • May make an attempt to harm self or the baby
  • What to expect?
    Postpartum psychosis is ALWAYS a medical emergency and a person experiencing it should not be left alone with their baby. Women with bipolar disorder make up 30% of postpartum psychosis patients. Talk to your care team right away if you have any symptoms. Even in the most severe cases of postpartum psychosis, 98% are able to recover.

Compassionate postpartum care and support to recover

Experiencing the baby blues or perhaps postpartum depression or anxiety? The doulas at Happy Family After are trained to aid in your physical and emotional recovery delivering compassionate and understanding support to help you navigate. We can help you create a postpartum recovery plan, laying out all the areas you need support in, tailoring our plan to your needs. We look forward to hearing about your support needs and welcoming you into the Happy Family After community soon!