Postnatal Mental Health Problems and How to Deal with Them
Pregnancy could be one of a couple’s most physically and emotionally draining phases. The physical and psychological changes a woman experiences during pregnancy could be overwhelming and recovery may continue long into the postnatal period. While the birth of your little one marks the beginning of healing for your body and mind, some women may experience more challenging and persistent problems that border on their mental health.
Mental health concerns, such as mood disturbances, are common for women in the postnatal phase; these issues could range from mild and self-limiting to severe cases that pose a threat to the health and safety of the mother and the little one. Common postpartum mental health problems include:
Postpartum blues are one of the most common forms of mood disturbances women face after the birth of their little ones. As much as 50% or more of women experience postpartum blues in the first few weeks after delivery. Women with the blues often experience mood lability, tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, poor sleep, and appetite changes, rather than feelings of sadness.
The symptoms of postpartum blues could go on for a few days and then resolve without any treatment within two weeks of delivery. As criteria for diagnosis, the symptoms of postpartum blues typically start within two to three days of delivery and resolve within two weeks. If it persists longer than two weeks, the symptoms may suggest some other mood disorders.
Post-partum blues are transient and often require no treatment; however, tips to helping you feel better sooner include:
- Take it easy on yourself
- Have lots of rest
- Seek help from family or loved ones with caregiving activities
- Eat right, with lots of veggies and fruits, and stay hydrated
Postpartum depression is a severe mood disorder that affects women after delivery. Postpartum depression typically develops two to three months after delivery with symptoms such as sad mood, tearfulness, loss of interest in usual activities, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, sleep disturbance, appetite changes, poor concentration, and suicidal thoughts.
Many factors could increase the risk of postpartum depression, including poor social support, poor body image after birth, previous history of depression, and a family history of depression or postpartum depression.
The difference between postpartum blues and postpartum depression lies in the persistence and intensity of symptoms. While the symptoms of postpartum blues fizzle out within two weeks, the symptoms of depression persist longer.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may lead to significant functional impairment and an inability to care adequately for the newborn. In severe cases, it may even lead to neglect of personal and child care.
Dealing with postpartum depression often requires professional help. The first line of treatment includes talk therapy and anti-depressant medications depending on the severity of your symptoms. Some women with mild to moderate symptoms may benefit from only talk therapy and social support, and a combination of talk therapy and medicines may be more appropriate for moderate to severe depression.
In addition to these treatments, women with postpartum depression may also adopt certain tips to help reduce their symptoms, and these include confiding in family and loved ones for support, eating lots of veggies and fruits and staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and making time for oneself.
Addressing risk factors for depression, such as restoring body image, with procedures such as feminine rejuvenation, including vaginoplasty, which helps to restore sexual function and self-confidence, may help in easing symptoms of postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe and potentially harmful postnatal mental health problem. It is however rare, affecting up to 2 in 1000 women after delivery. Postpartum psychosis carries a potential for serious social and medical complications if not identified and treated early.
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis could develop within days to weeks of delivery and often include confusion, disorganized thought pattern and behavior, sleep problems, lack of touch with reality, delusions, hallucinations, paranoia and suspicious feelings, suicidal or homicidal thoughts, and appetite changes.
One common feature of postpartum psychosis is potential harm to the newborn as some mothers report hearing voices that suggest harming the baby or themselves. Safety of the mother and newborn, therefore, is crucial and immediate hospital admission is necessitated when these symptoms are first identified.
Postpartum psychosis is essentially a mental health emergency that requires immediate intervention. Treatment includes medications, such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotic drugs. In cases that do not respond to antipsychotic drugs, electroconvulsive therapy may be considered. Talk therapy also plays a role in helping women deal with their symptoms.
Helpful tips for recovery from postpartum psychosis include getting psychological support from family and loved ones, getting enough sleep, complying with medications, and checking in with doctors often.
Postpartum anxiety is another common mental health concern of women after delivery, but it is not often talked about. This disorder may be challenging to identify and isolate because symptoms may overlap with those of depression and blues. Nonetheless, it may cause significant challenges in caring for the newborn.
Common symptoms of postpartum anxiety include constant worry that can’t be eased, sleep disturbances, racing thoughts, sweatiness, hyperventilation, and general uneasiness. Commonly, the focus of anxiety is the newborn, as mothers worry constantly about the health of the baby or that something terrible may happen to them or the little one.
Common types of postpartum anxiety include postpartum panic disorder and postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also come with specific symptoms, such as panic attacks and recurring thoughts about harm to your baby, respectively.
Postpartum anxiety can affect the bond between mother and child and even affect the health of the mother. Go for a postpartum check-up with your doctor to evaluate your symptoms and provide the most appropriate treatment for you. Treatment of postpartum anxiety often involves talk therapy or antianxiety medications, depending on the severity of your symptoms.
Helpful tips for feeling more in control of your thoughts if you’ve got postpartum anxiety include regular exercises, practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques, and avoiding foods or drinks, such as alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, which could worsen those symptoms.
Pregnancy and childbirth are exhaustive events in a woman’s life that could tilt her mental health in a downward spiral if she does not have the right support. While some baby blues are normal in the first few days after delivery, certain symptoms raise a red flag and carry a potential for serious medical and social complications.
If you experience disturbances in your emotions and thoughts after childbirth, speak to your doctor as soon as possible, and get adequate support from friends and loved ones.
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