Did you know that about 80% of all new moms experience some form of postpartum mood flux? There is a normal drop in mood, increase in anxiety and tearfulness that occurs in most women right after they have a baby. In most of these women, it is hormonal. The pregnant body is pumped full of estrogen, progesterone, relaxin, prolactin, and oxytocin. When the baby is born, all these amounts shift---mostly dropping off like the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. Having a baby opens women up in so many ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is a very wonderful and overwhelming time in all regards. It is also a very vulnerable time because the body is going through so many changes AND there is a tiny little being that must be tended to 24 hours a day. "Baby blues" affect up to 80% of new moms within the first few days postpartum. I've seen that days 4-6 postpartum tend to be the most difficult for women mood-wise.
About 10% of new moms will go on to develop postpartum depression. The onset of postpartum depression actually tends to be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months after the birth. The symptoms are similar to depression: low mood, sleep issues, appetite changes, panic, anxiety, disinterest--plus constant concerns about ability to care for the new baby, and possible fears of actually harming the baby. If a mom has had issues with depression prior to pregnancy, she is at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression. Sometimes, it can be due to underlying physiological issues like hypothyroidism (which can also develop in the postpartum period). So it's good to rule out root problems to best help with treating the symptoms.
Roughly 2% of new moms will suffer from postpartum psychosis. This is a very serious condition that must be addressed immediately and is thought to also be due to the drop-off of hormones that occurs after the birth. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis are seen within the first 2-3 weeks following the birth and include:
- insomnia (other than not being able to sleep because the baby is awake)
- flight of ideas
- constant thoughts of harming the new baby
- disinterest in the new baby
- complete shift of mental status (that friends and family easily notice)
Often, these women need in-patient help with stabilizing mood, but there is a lot that can be done naturopathically to support a woman in this situation. With the right support, these women go on to embrace being a mother.
There is a whole slew of new research coming out on postpartum and antepartum mood disorders. More prenatal care providers are broaching the subject with their patients as well. One of the best tools we have is to educate the patient and her family about the signs and symptoms so early intervention can occur.
Next week, I'll be writing about some of ways naturopathic doctors help women who may be at greater risk for developing postpartum depression, anxiety, or pychosis. Until then, enjoy the days as we begin to welcome Summer this year!