Postpartum Depression is not the only Maternal Mental Illness that exists.
Ten years ago I suffered from Postpartum Psychosis. Five years ago, I was an Advocate for mothers who needed education in raising their new baby, which included breastfeeding & maternal mental health services in Philadelphia. I am still in the public health field while also writing/blogging on Maternal Mental Health in Women. My degree is in psychology, and my goal is to break the mental illness stigma in the community by educating people on the negative effects on poor mental health.
I have learned so much after experiencing Postpartum Psychosis. One important lesson is self-care is very important. Some mothers sacrifice so much of themselves after having a baby that they forget to take time out for themselves. I had to learn how to care about my health and wellness the hard way. I constantly was putting others before myself, that’s how I crashed into depression. I thought I didn’t matter anymore. When I say self care I mean asking for help when you need it or taking a longer shower then normal. Another means of self-care is taking vitamins and exercising, if your into that sort of thing.
NOTICE THE SIGNS AND KNOW THE DIFFERENCE
Depression does not only begin after the baby arrives. It’s definitely possible that a pregnant woman may show signs of depression before giving birth. Noticing it before hand is what is suggested. About 70–80 % of new mothers experience negative feelings or mood swings during pregnancy or after giving birth. Fathers may also get depression, especially if their financial status is low at the moment. However, their systems are different from woman, some may become more disconnected and unfocused. Baby-blues is a lesser form of postpartum depression. It includes having a fear or doubt of being a mother. Symptoms are lack of energy, low energy, and mood swings. The “baby blues” (which occurs after the baby is born) affects as many as 80 % of new mothers. “Baby blues” symptoms are usually resolved within two weeks of delivery.
The term Perinatal Depression encompasses a wide range of mood disorders that can affect a woman during pregnancy and after the birth of her child. It includes prenatal depression, the “baby blues,” postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Between 15 and 20 % of all women experience some form of pregnancy related depression or anxiety. Prenatal (during pregnancy) depression affects 10 to 20 % of mothers. Symptoms of prenatal depression include crying, sleep problems (not due to frequent urination) fatigue Appetite disturbance, loss of enjoyment of activities, anxiety, and poor fetal attachment (New York Department of Health August 2019)
Postpartum Depression (PPD) — is temporary depression related to pregnancy and childbirth. It comes in two forms: early onset, commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” and late onset. The early onset type is mild and may affect as many as 80% of women after they deliver. It starts after delivery and usually resolves within a couple of weeks without medical treatment. The later onset form is what most people think of as postpartum depression. This more severe form is usually recognized several weeks after delivery. Overall, it affects about 10%-16% of women. Symptoms of mild PPD include sadness, anxiety, tearfulness, and trouble sleeping. These symptoms usually appear within several days of delivery and go away 10 to 12 days after the birth.
Mom’s need reassurance and some help with household chores and care of the baby. About 20% of women who have postpartum blues will develop more lasting depression. It is especially important to let your healthcare provider know if you experience “blues” that last longer than two weeks.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare illness that happens to 1 to 2 every 1000 deliveries it includes delusions or strange beliefs, hyperactivity, sleep deprived, hallucinations, paranoia and suspiciousness, and rapid mood swings, difficulties communicating. Research shows that Latina mothers have a higher risk of getting this illness by 5%. When having an illness like this, a mother can have thoughts of suicide, or thoughts of harming her child. Some mothers can either become extremely protective of their baby or not have an emotional bond at all with their baby.
Proper sleep and eating is important. chamomile tea or melatonin is said to be an option, but you must consult with your Primary Doctor on what options are best for you. A lot of mothers are not comfortable with just taking anything so supporting her with the baby during this difficult time is important. Let mom take a break to eat & sleep if you notice she is not feeling well.
Anti-depressants are commonly used, usually in combination with counseling and support by a therapist and a psychiatrist. You may start to feel better within 1 to 3 weeks of taking antidepressant medicine. But it can take as many as 6 to 8 weeks to see more improvement. If you have questions or concerns about your medicines, or if you do not notice any improvement by week three, talk to your doctor. Ask questions to your OBGYN or Prenatal doctor before having a baby so she can provide recommendations.
Antidepressants are typically used for at least 6 months, first to treat postpartum depression and then to prevent a relapse of symptoms. To prevent a relapse, your doctor may recommend that you take medicine for up to a year before you think about stopping it. Women who have had several episodes of depression may need to take medicine for a longer time. Some mothers start feeling better right away as they must lowly get off the medication, then get a relapse so be sure to speak to your doctor before deciding to get off the medication.
BE HER PEACE
If you or someone you know is demonstrating this type of behavior, one on one with the mother is helpful. Tell her that she is not alone, and set up an emergency appointment with a psychiatric doctor. The way to comfort her is by talking to them without any surrounding distractions or noise. Be understanding to the emotional instability that she has. She may become irritable or angry, and in denial of their illness at first, but with reassurance and comfort she will comply, just do not give up on her. When speaking to her use words terminology like “we will get through this” and “you are not alone” so she understands you are there for her.
I was told by a psychiatrist that if I have another baby there is a 95% chance, I will get Postpartum Psychosis again, and I had such a fear it would return after having my daughter. I am proud to say it did not return. This time I have a supportive a better support system, and I also sleep and eat better. Lesson learned.