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How often have you heard the phrases “she’s just postpartum” or “she definitely has postpartum depression” in a somewhat dismissive or diminishing tone? Maybe leaving a taste of judgement behind after the topic is dropped once being labeled? The term “postpartum” seems to be the go-to catch phrase when a mom-to-be or new mom appears to be struggling during the perinatal period and it often minimizes what she is experiencing and leaves the mom believing that what she is feeling is “normal” so she doesn’t seek help. 

The perinatal period is defined as pregnancy through the first year postpartum, and during this timeframe a woman can experience many changes in her emotional and mental well-being brought on by hormonal fluctuations, life stressors, and challenging physical changes (to name a few), and while many woman are able to manage these changes with little to no intrusion on emotional stability, there is a relatively high percentage of women who struggle somewhere on the spectrum of conditions that are treatable. 

To help you better understand what you may be experiencing and differentiate between common terms you may hear, I have listed some frequently diagnosed conditions and symptoms associated below. If you find that you are connecting with some specific symptoms, it is important that you seek guidance and help from a trained professional for help. 

BABY BLUES: Considered a “non-disorder”

  • Affects 60-80% of new moms
  • Symptoms include crying, feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, and being uncertain. These symptoms are considered to be MILDLY experienced.
  • Symptoms are typically due to extreme hormone fluctuation at the time of the birth.
  • Lasts no more than 2 days to 2 weeks and then dissipates.
  • You will also experience acute sleep deprivation and fatigue. 

POSTPARTUM “blues”: Not a mild form of depression

  • Present in 50-80% of women, in diverse cultures
  • Predominant mood: HAPPINESS
  • Symptoms include tearfulness, lability, reactivity
  • Unrelated to stress or psychiatric history
  • Posited to be due to hormone withdrawal and/or effects of maternal bonding hormones

PERINATAL DEPRESSION:

Symptoms include:

  • Sadness, crying
  • Unexplained physical complaints
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor concentration/focus
  • Irritability and anger
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Guilt and shame
  • Overwhelmed
  • Lack of feelings toward the baby
  • Inability to take care of self or family
  • Loss of interest, joy, pleasure
  • Anxiety
  • Isolation
  • “This doesn’t feel like me”
  • Mood swings
  • Worthlessness

PERINATAL ANXIETY and PANIC:

ANXIETY symptoms:

* Agitated 

  • Inability to sit still
  • Excessive concern about baby’s or her own health
  • High Alert
  • Appetite changes- often rapid weight loss
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling/staying asleep)
  • Constant worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

PANIC symptoms:

  • Episodes of extreme anxiety
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain, sensations of choking or smothering, dizziness
  • Hot or cold flashes, trembling, rapid heart rate, numbness, tingling sensations
  • Restlessness, agitation, or irritability
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Panic may wake you up.

PERINATAL OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE:

Symptoms include:

  • Instrusive, repetitive thoughts (usually of harm coming to baby)
  • Tremendous guilt and shame
  • Hypervigilance
  • Will engage in behaviors to avoid harm or minimize triggers

PERINATAL PSYCHOSIS:

Symptoms include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion/disorientation
  • Rapid mood swings

If you are stuggling with ANY of the symptoms identified above, please reach out to a professional for help in identifying what you may be going through and how you can get help. 

As always, please remember that there IS HELP,  you ARE NOT ALONE, and you CAN FEEL BETTER! 

**Information provided in blog is courtesy of Postpartum Support International. You can click on this link- http://www.postpartum.net- to be taken directly to their website where you will find an abundance of supportive information and help

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