Postpartum mood disorders come in many shapes and sizes. Approximately 80% of all women in the United States will experience some form of mood disorder after the birth of their child. The emotional and physical discomfort they feel can be triggered by hormonal changes, lack of sleep, stress, socioeconomic factors and other changes. What is concerning, however, is that only 20% of women actually report their feelings to a qualified health professional, such as their physician, midwife, or pediatrician. Perhaps women are concerned about the stigma associated with mental health issues, or they fear that in reporting their mood swings and emotional pain they may jeopardize custody of their new baby. Whatever the reason, it’s time to change the way we look at perinatal (after birth) mood disorders.
The majority of women experience what is referred to as “the new baby blues”. This milder form of postpartum depression may be characterized by insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, tearfulness or sadness and may last anywhere from several hours to a week. The more serious forms of perinatal mood disorders include Postpartum Depression and the extremely severe Postpartum Psychosis.
Approximately 10-15% of new mothers will experience Postpartum Depression. Family members, partners and heath professionals should watch for symptoms that could include sleeping and eating disturbances, anxiety and insecurity, mood swings, confusion, loss of self, guilt or shame, and thoughts of harming herself.
Dr. Cheryl Beck and Dr. Robert Gable at the University of Connecticut have developed a new screening tool to assist health care professionals with identifying new mothers who may be at risk or suffering from postpartum depression. Dr. Beck suggests that doctors, midwives, and nursing staff should continuously evaluate new mothers throughout the first year after giving birth as the more severe of these conditions may not surface until well after the 6-week obstetric check up.
While only 1% of new mothers may experience the more obvious symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, an inability to sleep, poor appetite, and bizarre/irrational behavior) these are the women who are at risk of hurting themselves or their new baby. Early detection of perinatal mood disorders is imperative to prevent another senseless loss of life, however our perception of mental illness and its associated diseases must change. Women need to feel confident that their healthcare professionals will take appropriate steps to get them the help they need without fear of shame or consequence.
If you are concerned that someone you love is experiencing any of the above symptoms, please request help in your area by going on the web to www.postpartum.net. Professionals are standing by to answer your questions. Robyn B. Surdel Robyn’s Nest ~ The Parenting Network firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
After having children, Robyn found that there was a need for reliable and current information on all children's issues. Not finding the medical, behavior or psychological information available to parents or grandparents, she wondered what to do. Of course, being skilled on the computer, informed about children's issues and with a desire to help others, she started her web site and put aired information on TV.