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What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression?
60 percent of moms who develop postpartum depression (PPD) do so within the first 6 weeks of childbirth. Some are even able to trace their change of mood back to the moment their baby's placenta was delivered and their hormones radically shifted. So if you have PPD, what are you likely to be feeling? The symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman - in other words, one size does not fit all. But, whatever you feel, you should feel it everyday for at least 2 weeks for it to be considered true depression. The following is a list of some of the most common emotions reported:
• Feeling elated. You experience an illogical elevated mood, where you become so cheerful you feel almost 'high'. Although this feeling is nice, it is swiftly followed within a few days with the crash of depression.
• Anger, irritability, rage. Snapping at people for no good reason.
• Feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Even small tasks like paying a bill or making a phone call is too much to organize.
• Sleeping too much or too little.
• Worrying about everything, all the time.
• Problems concentrating.
• Guilty feelings. Being quick to put yourself down.
• Hopelessness. Despair of every feeling happy again.
• Loss of libido.
• Reduced appetite, although occasionally increased.
• Feeling worthless and low self esteem.
• Backaches and other physical symptoms with no obvious cause.
• Sadness. Crying easily, even in commercials. While this may be normal baby blues, if it continues for more than 2 weeks, see a doctor.
Most of these symptoms are similar to other types of depression. The main difference is the timing - when it starts. In effect postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression which starts after childbirth. Read also about the general effects of depression. If you think you might have PPD - take our postpartum depression quiz.
Symptoms Of Other Postpartum Disorders
PPD is not the only mood disorder than new moms can develop. While PPD occurs in about 10 to 20 percent of women after childbirth, another 10 percent will develop panic attacks, 4 percent obsessive compulsive disorders, 3 percent post-traumatic stress disorders and less than 1 percent become psychotic.
A panic attack is more than just a feeling of being stressed. It 'attacks' out of the blue and you feel gripped with uncontrollable fear. Some moms become so worried about having an attack, they are afraid to leave the house with their baby in case they lose control in public. Very often panic disorders run in the family, so if you have a family history you are higher risk. It is also a side effect of hyperthyroidism, so do be sure to have your thyroid checked. A list of common symptoms include:
• Fear you are going crazy.
• Hot and cold flashes.
• Squeezing chest pain like you are having a heart attack.
• Shortness of breath.
• Crawling sensation in the skin.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
New mothers with OCD, nearly always become obsessed with negative thoughts - mainly about all the dangers their baby can face. As a result they become obsessively over protective. Every object they see turns into something that can potentially damage their baby. For example, if a mother with OCD sees a pen on the table, she might 'see' her child stabbed with it, if she takes the vacuum cleaner out she 'sees' the cord wrapped around the baby's neck. Although the mother knows logically that the risks are very small, she will argue 'but it could happen'. Her brain has gone into major worry overdrive, to the point where she cannot sleep or rest for anxiety. Sometimes doctors who are not familiar with OCD will mistakenly diagnosis psychosis. This sort of misdiagnosis is particularly damaging because the woman then worries about being psychotic and harming her baby. It should be noted immediately that OCD and psychosis are not the same. They are two separate conditions and OCD does not develop into psychosis. Mothers who develop OCD are not a danger to their babies, the only thing they are 'guilty' of is being overprotective. Top symptoms of postpartum OCD include:
• A need to count everything repetitively like toys or bottles.
• Constantly cleaning and tidying up.
• Fear of germs.
• Repetitively checking things, that doors are locked and that the baby is breathing.
• Terrifying thoughts of harming the baby or watching the baby being harmed.
• Not trusting herself to be alone with the baby.
• Intense embarrassment and shame at her feelings.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
This is a condition where the woman suddenly starts reliving past experiences which cause her to become anxious and depressed. For example, if she had a disturbing childhood she may suddenly become obsessed with memories and flashbacks. Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder appears within a few weeks of childbirth. Women who have experienced physical, emotional or physical abuse in the past are most at risk. The most common symptoms are:
• Intense anxiety.
• Flashbacks to past traumas.
• Recurring nightmares.
• Fear and being startled easily.
• Extreme sensitivity and awareness of surrounding noises.
Postpartum (puerperal) psychosis is a very dangerous condition which needs immediate attention. It is not a severe case of PPD, it is a different condition altogether. When you hear of a distressed mother killing her baby, she is usually suffering from postpartum psychosis. A mother with this condition may switch in and out of reality, one moment she can sound lucid and talk normally, the next she makes no sense at all. 50 percent of psychosis cases occur within the first week of delivery and 75 percent within the first two weeks. Fortunately it only affects 1 in every 1,000 postpartum women. It is always considered a medical emergency because it has a 5 percent suicide rate and 4 percent infanticide (killing the baby) rate. Symptoms include:
• Hallucination, hearing voices or seeing messages meant only for her on the TV or radio.
• Confusion and disorientation.
• Paranoia, feels that others are trying to harm her.
• Extremely agitated.
• Tactile hallucinations, feeling for example like spiders are crawling up her legs.
Bipolar depression used to be called manic depression. It is a severe (manic) form of depression characterized by big mood swings. One moment the woman feels on top of the world, the next she crashes into despair. If you have suffered in the past you have a 50 percent chance of developing a postpartum bipolar episode. But even if you haven't had it before, but a blood relative has, you are still at increased risk, so be sure to inform your ob/gyn before delivery. Symptoms include:
• Extreme happiness and sudden bursts of energy.
• Perceived need for less sleep.
• Inappropriate humor.
• Shopping sprees.
• Shows poor judgment.
• Sexually overactive, sometimes inappropriately.
Next, read: Postpartum Depression Diagnosis.
Common causes of tiredness: Why am I so tired all the time?
How stressed are you? Is there an online test for stress?
Can it be prevented? Prevention of postpartum depression.