Postpartum Mental Health
Frequently asked questions about postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis
How and Why Does Having a Baby Affect Mental Health?
Having a baby can affect mothers’ mental health for a variety of reasons, including changes to lifestyle, natural mothering instincts and hormonal changes. While some of these changes may resolve on their own with time, others are more serious and may require the involvement of a mental health professional.
Some of the most common changes include:
- Baby blues
- Difficulty with lifestyle adjustments
- Difficulty coping with attachment
- Postpartum anxiety, depression and psychosis
Contrary to popular belief, individuals with bipolar disorder do not experience these changes to mood on an hourly or even daily basis. Depending on the individual, these episodes may last weeks or even months at a time before transitioning.
Why Do Some Women Experience Postpartum Mental Health Issues While Others Don’t?
While most moms will experience at least a short period of baby blues following childbirth, mostly due to hormonal and lifestyle changes, not all women will experience lasting symptoms that fall into the categories of depression, anxiety or psychosis.
There are a variety of reasons why some women struggle with this more than others, including general mental health prior to pregnancy/birth, the degree of stress in their lives, hormonal differences, financial situations, and more.
How Do I Cope With Postpartum Mental Health Changes?
The first step to coping with changes to your mental health following birth is to recognize that it’s totally normal! Your feelings and emotions following any major life event are valid, and you should be patient with yourself in the time it takes to adjust.
Everyone can benefit from talking to a mental health professional, especially new mothers! Finding a therapist or counselor who understands your unique needs, personality and situation can help set you up for success.
Your therapist can help you navigate these new or changing feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms and habits to allow you the time, space and perspective you need to adapt.
How Long Does It Take to Get Over Postpartum Mental Health Changes?
Every mother is an individual, and there is no set timeline. In fact, comparing your situation to another’s may lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure if you do not reach the milestones you’ve set for yourself!
Be patient and open minded as you work to navigate these changes. Some women may return to feeling “normal” within a matter of days or weeks, while others may take months or perhaps even years. Interestingly enough, you may find that you develop a new, healthier outlook as time goes on and you implement coping practices. Give yourself the space to do that!
Are Postpartum Depression, Anxiety, and Psychosis Considered Mental Illnesses?
The short answer is that it depends! Some women may experience symptoms of postpartum or “baby” blues that do not last more than a few days or weeks. In this case, there is no further diagnosis needed. Should you experience lasting symptoms of depression or anxiety, further investigation or classification may be needed to provide you with the care you need.
It’s important to note that a diagnosis is useful only in that it provides you and your care team with an effective understanding of the symptoms that you may be experiencing. It’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s a positive step in the right direction!
What is Postpartum Depression?
It is extremely common for new mothers to feel a variety of strong emotions following the birth of their baby. In addition to the many positive emotions such as joy, excitement and compassion, mothers may also be surprised to find that feelings like sadness or anxiety are also quite common.
If feelings of depression – including crying, generalized sadness or a feeling of helplessness – resolve in a matter of days or weeks, this is often called “baby blues.” In cases in which these feelings persist or evolve beyond that timespan, it is then called postpartum depression.
To rule out other physical causes for these symptoms, a physician may also conduct a physical exam and lab tests. These are to rule out disorders such as hyperthyroidism which can cause changes to mood as well as associated behaviors.
What are Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Since every mother is different, they may experience a variety of common postpartum symptoms to varying degrees, these include:
- Irritability/short temperedness
- Inability to difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood swings
- Reduced appetite or loss of appetite
- Feeling of inadequacy or helplessness/hopelessness
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?
Postpartum depression may last anywhere from two weeks to several months to a year or more. The length of the condition depends on a number of factors, including the home situation, mother’s general mental health, ability or willingness to access care, and more.
Can Postpartum Depression Go Away Without Medication?
Depending on the severity of the symptoms and their impact on the mother/baby’s lives, it is at times possible to treat postpartum depression without medication.
Should you need medication to help manage the condition, that is okay! Modern medicine provides a variety of helpful solutions to help all individuals manage symptoms of depression, postpartum and otherwise.
Is Postpartum Depression Curable?
For patients who do not generally experience signs and symptoms of depression, it is possible to overcome postpartum depression with time and treatment.
That being said, there is no prescription cure for postpartum depression, and those who continue to experience feelings of generalized depression can and do go on to live happy, healthy lives while managing the condition.
How Can Therapy Help Me Manage Postpartum Depression?
Therapy can be a great help to mothers struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression by providing a safe space for them to voice their thoughts, frustrations and thought processes without judgment. You are encouraged to tell your therapist or counselor all that you are feeling and struggling with.
In addition to providing a safe space, therapy can provide a number of helpful resources and strategies to help mothers manage symptoms of postpartum depression while moving in a positive direction.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum anxiety refers to feeling of anxiety that emerge after childbirth including:
- Feelings of restlessness or discomfort
- Worrying about the future or other unknowns
- Obsessive thought patterns
- Increased feeling of stress
Can You Develop Postpartum Anxiety Months/Years After Giving Birth?
While it is most common to develop postpartum symptoms of depression and anxiety within the first month of childbirth, you can develop these same symptoms anytime within the first twelve months for them to be considered postpartum related.
The timing of your postpartum diagnosis is entirely individual, and you should not feel ashamed or doubtful of your feelings if they develop later than you thought they should. It is always an appropriate time to reach out to a mental health professional for help.
How Can I Cope With Postpartum Anxiety?
Learning to cope with postpartum anxiety is very similar to coping with anxiety in general. Some helpful strategies include:
- Learning to see things in context
- Positive self-talk
- Mindfulness habits such as breathing exercises, meditation, etc.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Talk therapy
How Can Therapy Help Me Manage Postpartum Anxiety?
Therapy can help anyone struggling with postpartum anxiety by providing a safe space to talk about the symptoms they are experiencing while also providing education and support on helpful means of managing these symptoms through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relationship therapy, and more.
Does Postpartum Anxiety Turn Into Psychosis?
Postpartum depression and anxiety, if left undiagnosed or treated, can transition into postpartum psychosis in some cases. It is important to seek out the help of a mental health professional as soon as you are aware of your condition. We are available to help.
What is Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is a rarer, serious mental health diagnosis in which mothers may experience the following:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Inability or difficulty sleeping
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Excessive energy/agitation
- Obsessive thoughts and/or paranoia
- Severe feelings of wanting to harm yourself or your baby
How Common is Postpartum Psychosis?
While postpartum psychosis is far less common than depression or anxiety, it is still possible for any new mother to develop the condition, and so it should be monitored closely.
If you believe you may be experiencing signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis, contact a mental health professional immediately.
Who is at Greatest Risk for Postpartum Psychosis?
It can be hard to determine who is at greatest risk for developing postpartum psychosis, and it should be assumed that anyone can develop the condition in order to best provide diagnosis and treatment as needed.
One risk factor that is certain is that women who have a history with bipolar disorder, whether their own or within their immediate family, may have an increased risk of developing the condition.
What is the Treatment for Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is a serious and acute medical diagnosis that often requires a combination of talk therapy, hospitalization, and medication. If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering from symptoms of psychosis, contact a medical professional immediately.