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
- 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?