Postpartum depression, or PPD, is just one in a group of illnesses than can affect women either during pregnancy or after birth. Together these illnesses are called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. That’s a big phrase to swallow, but what it means is that your brain definitely doesn’t feel like it’s working the way it used to, and it’s probably making you miserable.
If you are thinking that you just don’t feel like yourself anymore, or that you never should have gotten pregnant or had a baby, or that you are a terrible mother, or that something feels seriously wrong, you are not alone. One in every seven women gets a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like PPD. You have done nothing wrong. You are not weak, or selfish, or a bad mom. You just have an illness that many women get, and you can get better with help from a healthcare professional.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can show up any time during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after birth. And if you don’t get treated, the symptoms can last even longer, especially if your illness is moderate to severe. There are different treatments that may work for you, including therapy and/or medication. It’s important to speak with a clinician to find out the best path for you to take to recovery.
If someone tells you that you can only get postpartum depression in the first few weeks or months after birth, he or she is wrong. If you find yourself suffering any time during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum, or even afterwards if you never got help and your symptoms have persisted past the first year, reach out for help. Also, please know that you can get a maternal mental illness with any child — it doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or your fifth or somewhere in between.
If you are surprised that you’ve never even heard of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, don’t feel bad. Most women haven’t, which is why Postpartum Progress is working so hard to raise awareness. Here is a list of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders we think everyone should know about:
Postpartum Depression — If you have had a baby in the last year and are having eating or sleeping problems, a hard time concentrating or making decisions, problems bonding with your baby or enjoying motherhood, periods of anger or rage, sadness and crying, the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, or possible thoughts of harming yourself or running away and escaping, you might have postpartum depression. You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to have PPD, by the way. To learn more, click here.
Pregnancy Depression — If you have symptoms like the ones listed above for PPD but you are pregnant, you could have antenatal depression, also called pregnancy depression. This is just as common as PPD. Please know that you can be treated for depression during pregnancy, so don’t avoid calling your doctor out of fear that he or she can’t do anything to help you.
Postpartum Anxiety — Maybe you’re not feeling depressed, but instead very anxious. Postpartum anxiety symptoms include constant worries and fears. Maybe you can’t sleep or eat. Maybe you are worried all the time that something terrible is going to happen to you or someone you love. You could have postpartum anxiety. To learn more about these symptoms, click here.
Postpartum OCD — Postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, or postpartum OCD, is a form of postpartum anxiety that has a symptom that is pretty hard to ignore: intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are scary “what if” thoughts that come into your head. You don’t want to have them, but they keep coming anyway. They may involve you harming someone you love, including your baby. You might also have compulsions, which means you feel the need to do things like clean, organize, check and recheck, or count. If you have postpartum OCD, you are not a danger to your child. This is a common illness, and you can get help for it.
Postpartum Panic Disorder — This is another form of postpartum anxiety that involves having panic attacks, which can include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and numbness or tingling in your arms or legs. Some women having panic attacks often worry that they are having a heart attack or have come down with a serious disease.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — Moms with postpartum PTSD have often had a traumatic pregnancy or childbirth experience. Maybe you had hyperemesis or were put on bedrest. Perhaps you had an emergency c-section, or your baby had problems after birth or went to the NICU. These are all risk factors for postpartum PTSD. Symptoms can include nightmares and flashbacks. A professional can help you find tools to help resolve the trauma you experienced.
Postpartum Psychosis — Women with postpartum psychosis, the most serious of all perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, may have delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or mania. What does that mean? You might be hearing or seeing things that no one else can see. You might be afraid that everyone is out to harm you or get rid of you. You might also have a much greater amount of energy than normal and feel like you don’t need sleep and can take on the world. These are just some of the symptoms of postpartum psychosis — to learn more, click here. It’s very important that you get help right away if you have these symptoms. You can call 911, visit your nearest emergency room, or arrange to see your doctor immediately. Here’s why: postpartum psychosis can lead you to do things, including dangerous or reckless things, that you would never do otherwise. It is important for you to start treatment right away to help you get stable and prevent you or your loved ones from harm.
No matter which of these illnesses or symptoms you might be having, they are temporary and treatable with professional help.
Every new mom is tired. Every new mom is worried and stressed. If you feel exhausted, overwhelmed and upset every now and then, that’s okay. It’s perfectly normal. However, if you have sadness or irritability or negative symptoms that seem to continue on and on without letting up, or that continually worsen, and are affecting your ability to function on a daily basis, that’s when it’s time to reach out for help. You do not have to accept that this is what it’s like to be a mom, because it isn’t. You might not believe it, but you can and will get back to the old you with help. The most important thing is to get that help now. Don’t wait hoping that some day these symptoms will just go away on their own. The longer you wait, your symptoms may become more severe, and it may take you longer to recover. It can also affect the health of your family, so the greatest gift you can give to them all is to get the help you need and deserve. We’re here to help.
To find answers to the most commonly asked questions about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, please click here. To find out all the ways Postpartum Progress can help you, click here. We know what it’s like to be where you are because we’ve been there ourselves.