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Our postpartum mood disorders program

New mothers are often told, “This is the happiest time of your life!” In reality, though, it can be one of the most stressful times of your life. And one in ten women may experience overwhelming psychological changes which can replace the feelings of joy and affect the maternal bonding with the infant.

A mother hugs her baby

These women may experience:

  • High anxiety levels
  • Despondency
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent crying
  • Fear of harming the baby

Women experiencing these changes can feel “out of control” and afraid to care for their baby. Many such women suffer feelings of guilt and disappointment and are ashamed to admit what they are feeling... but they're not abnormal. They're suffering from a known condition afflicting many others: postpartum depression.

There are five postpartum mood disorders:

  • The most common are the “baby blues” which are experienced by 50-80 percent of all new mothers. The “baby blues” occur within the first week postpartum and usually persists for up to 3 weeks. Common symptoms are mood instability, sadness, lack of concentration, and dependency. Many of these symptoms are due to hormonal changes as well as the physical and emotional stress of childbirth.
     
  • In 15-20 percent of mothers, postpartum depression or anxiety may develop. It may develop anytime in the first year after delivery. Some of the common symptoms are excessive worry or anxiety, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, sleep problems, lack of feelings towards the baby, and change in appetite. Risk factors include a personal history of depression/anxiety, social isolation, or history of thyroid dysfunction. Postpartum depression can be treated with antidepressants as well as therapy.
     
  • In 3-5 percent of new mothers, they may develop obsessive symptoms. They may have repetitive and persistent thoughts, they may even have thoughts of harming the baby.  Treatment includes medication and therapy.
     
  • Panic disorder may develop in 10 percent of postpartum women. They may experience severe anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, or palpitations.
     
  • A very small number of women may develop postpartum psychosis. This may occur in the first 2-3 days postpartum. Symptoms include delusional thinking, visual or auditory hallucinations, and delirium. Women experiencing postpartum psychosis in general need to be hospitalized for further treatment.

Our team strives to educate and screen patients for symptoms of postpartum depression during pregnancy and during each postpartum visit. We're sensitive to the emotional as well as the physical needs of pregnancy. Every team is comprised of a physician, and a clinical nurse specialist with a specialty in high risk obstetrics and psychiatric mental health nursing.