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Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis

Mommy Wellness: Beyond the Baby Blues

When you imagine the days, weeks and months following the birth of your child, you see visions of pink or blue, imagine the sound of your baby’s laugh and try to guess what she will look like. What you don’t fathom is a sense of melancholy that can take control of your life.

Doctors and baby books warn that baby blues occur in 80 percent of mothers following the birth of their child. Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are not limited to extreme cases like Susan Smith and Andrea Yates who made national headlines when they murdered their children.

Fifteen to twenty percent of all mothers experience some form of depression and that the onset of the disease is gradual. A close friend of mine and fabulous mother entertained suicide after the birth of her second baby. One of my coworkers knew a woman who ended her own life months after baby number two was born.

To learn more about the symptoms of postpartum depression and psychosis,


According to WebMd, postpartum depression is:

"Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can occur in the first few months after childbirth. It also can happen after miscarriage and stillbirth.

Postpartum depression can make you feel very sad, hopeless, and worthless. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.

Postpartum depression is not the "baby blues," which many women have in the first couple of weeks after childbirth. With the blues, you may have trouble sleeping and feel moody, teary, and overwhelmed. You may have these feelings along with being happy about your baby. But the "baby blues" usually go away within a couple of weeks. The symptoms of postpartum depression can last for months."

Postpartum Support International has put together a list of symptoms that new mothers, and their families and friends, should look out for should those baby blues not end after a few weeks. These symptoms include:

  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Feeling overwhelmed, difficulty making decisions
  • Sad mood, feelings of guilt, phobias
  • Hopelessness
  • Sleep problems (often the woman cannot sleep or sleeps too much), fatigue
  • Physical symptoms or complaints without apparent physical cause
  • Discomfort around the baby or a lack of feeling toward the baby
  • Loss of focus and concentration (may miss appointments, for example)
  • Loss of interest or pleasure, decreased libido
  • Changes in appetite; significant weight loss or gain

The most extreme cases of postpartum depression, approximately one to two per thousand cases, are considered to be postpartum psychosis. This disorder has a five percent suicide and four percent infanticide rate. WebMd identifies the disorder as:

"Postpartum psychosis is a rare, severe, and dangerous form of postpartum depression that can suddenly develop within the first 3 weeks following childbirth. A woman with postpartum psychosis may feel detached from her baby and other people; have hallucinations involving smell, touch, sight, or hearing; have thoughts not based in reality (delusions); display bizarre behavior; or have urges to kill herself and her child or children.

Postpartum psychosis is considered a psychiatric emergency requiring immediate hospitalization and treatment"

Obviously, these are devastating disorders that affect the entire family. So make a pact with yourself and your friends to keep an eye on each other, to check in on each other and to watch for the warning signs, so that you and your friends can be treated as early as possible.

Did postpartum depression affect you or someone close to you?


dilly123 dilly123 9 years
I also had PPD after the birth of my second son. I was not married to his father, but we lived together as a family. I felt like I had made a very bad decision in the relationship and longed to be reunited with my first husband. On the other hand, we lived in the Seattle area and my partner's parents lived a block away. Add the Seattle climate and Boeing layoffs of the early seventies. I felt that I couldn't go back to my first husband what with the circumstances. We also had no friends in the area. I became increasingly depressed and began to have auditory hallucinations. I was afraid to be alone with the new baby and the only relief I had from the hallucinations and the ensuing guilt and relentless visits from the "in-laws" was in sleep. My son was their first grandchild from their own marriage to each other and their son the only child of the same marriage. My normal weight was 115 lbs and I could barely keep my weight up to 100 lbs only a month after the baby was born. I was manic at times and terribly depressed and sluggish at times. I also reacted with great angst when previews for "The Exorcist" came on tv because I thought that I was possessed by a demon. There were many visits to the emergency wards of hospitals in the middle of the night. I was given Valium and another tranquilizer. They made me feel even more wrong with myself and despondent so I tossed them. At that time there was not a term for what I was experiencing, even in a metropolitan area. I did not feel like my second son was mine and began to feel that I was miserably failing with my first son. We moved to Montana to be away from the dismal weather and the in-laws. This did not all together resolve the problem. I was also nursing the baby and that went well. It turned out that he was exceptionally cute and also high-maintenance. We married and then my husband had to leave town for several days and my older son had gone to Disneyland with his father. I was terrified of staying alone with the baby for days. I also found out that I was pregnant again. I was amazed that I actually did all right and came to enjoy the baby some. I gained a normal amount of weight in the third pregnancy and returned to my normal weight. I nursed until a few months before the third son was born. It felt very much like I began to return to being myself after the birth of my third son, though it was close enough that I felt like my second son was overlooked a lot. I remember one day when I was nursing the new baby, who was about ten months old, and my second son had fallen asleep in his pajamas on the floor. I took the sleeping baby upstairs to his crib and went back down to pick up my middle son. I looked into his sleeping face and began to weep because he was such a beautiful child and it finally felt like he was mine. I think that I am exceptionally close to all three sons, but I asked my middle son a few years back if he ever felt that I had played favorites. He said, "Well, you seemed to always favor me, but you finally started treating us equally a few years ago". I now know that I was Post-partum psychotic. Ironically, my second husband became a social worker and counselor. I found the term in the DSM in the eighties and was so strongly relieved to discover that I was not the only woman who had suffered this horrible disability. I also think that the hormonal changes once again in a third pregnancy triggered the changes I needed to live a somewhat normal life. It has taken me decades to discuss it with anyone, except for the many doctors and counselors I saw in the seventies who were totally stumped.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 9 years
I'm thankful for posts like these. It provides some realistic views of motherhood.
bugsbrat bugsbrat 9 years
I suffered from PPD after the birth of my first child. It was a terrifying experience to say the least. I didn't know it was PPD until my mother encouraged me to see a doctor. I had intense feelings of guilt (towards my husband who I felt I couldn't give the same amount of attention and care to anymore), I couldn't bond with my daughter (I never bathed her for the first two weeks of her life (I always had people around and this was a good excuse for grannies to help); I had no appetite whatsoever and I would cry at the drop of a hat. My doctor prescribed anti-depressants which worked almost immediately. There is no shame involved in PPD - it is more common than you think! I told my sister-in-law, who is yet to have a child and who thinks I was an isolated incident of PPD, that many women are ashamed and guilt-ridden to admit they had suffered from it and that's why one doesn't hear about it very much. It's almost like it should be kept secret. I also read 'Down came the rain' by Brooke Shields and found it most informative and somewhat comforting.
Kimmba-K Kimmba-K 9 years
I had PPD after the birth of my first child. My husband and I tried for three years, and one miscarriage, to get pregnant. When our son was born it should have been the happiest time of our lives. I found myself questioning out loud whether we made the right decision. I also found myself having violent mood swings to the point of screaming at my 3 month old to shut up and asking him why he hated me. It was very rough. I realized after reading an article that I had PPD. I spoke to my family physician and she suggested a remedy. It worked fabulously!Having been down the PPD road myself, I urge anyone who thinks they or someone they care about may possibly have PPD to seek help. This is nothing to be ashamed of! I also recommend Brooke Shields' book "Down Came the Rain". It is a fantastic read that just about every mom out there can relate to.
Gruberr1 Gruberr1 9 years
An acquaintance of mine succumbed to postpartum psychosis about 3 months after the birth of her 2nd child. We still do not know all of the circumstances surrounding her death, but it has certainly been an eye-opener for my friends and me. PPD and PPP are very scary conditions that are not talked about openly, nor often enough. There are wonderful treatment options out there, but it takes a lot for a new mom, or her family, to admit that there is a problem. Those first few months are beyond difficult and it is often hard to separate the feeling of being overwhelmed by your new responsibilities from feelings that are associated with PPD.
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