Postpartum Mental Health

When we talk about postpartum mental disorders too often the air leaves the room. The cliche response from loving family members can at times be well-meaning, but unhelpful at best, and demeaning or even further depressive at worst. Careful wording, offering support in the form of actual help with daily chores, feeding the family, taking the older kids for a bit, and genuinely asking how they’re doing can go a long way to ease their minds and give them a moment to do some self-care. Also, instead of asking what you can do, offer specific ways to help, so they don’t have to think what you can do for them, making another decision, or feeling like they shouldn’t ask.

In an article written by 2020 Mom we see the rundown of the signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis. The important thing to note is that it’s not uncommon, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Also important to consider is that a parent who is experiencing mania, the precursor stage of psychosis, oftentimes are euphoric, and can’t diagnose themselves. This checklist listed below is as much for the new parent as it is for the family and friends.

Symptoms of psychosis can include:

  •  Difficulty concentrating
  •  Suspiciousness or paranoia
  •  Withdrawal from family and friends
  •  delusions
  •  Hallucinations
  •  Disorganized speech, such as switching topics erratically
  •  Significant social withdrawal
  •  Catatonia – lack of movement and communication
  •  Agitation and restlessness

Mania can be a precursor to psychosis. Symptoms Include:

  •  Abnormally upbeat, happy, jumpy or wired
  •  Increased activity, energy, irritation or agitation
  •  Exaggerated sense of well-being, self-importance or self-confidence (euphoria)
  •  Decreased need for sleep
  •  Unusual talkativeness
  •  Racing thoughts
  •  Easily Distracted

For postpartum depression in birthers or their partners, the symptoms are similar, even though what is going on in their bodies may be different. Partners have PPMD in 8-10% of families, though it is thought it’s actually as high as 25%.

Symptoms of PPMD in birthers may include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Crying too much
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Either sleeping too much or too little
  • Overwhelming tiredness or loss of energy
  • Less interest and pleasure in activities that were once enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that they’re not a good parent
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Reduced ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming self or baby
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Symptoms of PPMD in the partner include:

  • Depressed mood, including feeling sad, hopeless, and empty
  • A loss of interest in activities or pursuits that were once enjoyed
  • An increase or decrease in appetite and/or weight
  • Either sleeping too much or too little
  • Low energy
  • An increase or decrease in movement that is noticeable to others
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating on things
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you know someone who seems to be experiencing these symptoms, reach out. Offer loving support and carefully approach the topic with no judgement. If you’re the one seeing this within yourself, know that you’re not alone in your journey, and there is no shame in any of it! Just like getting an infection, it’s not your fault, it doesn’t make you lesser, it just means you need to treat it.

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