Most new parents are warned about the symptoms of postpartum depression (or PPD) long before the baby arrives. The first several months with a new baby are a trying time, with lack of sleep, changes in the routine, and a shift in identity causing each parent to function in an entirely new way. For some parents, this period can also come with another mental disorder, making it hard to care for oneself, let alone an infant who is entirely dependent upon its parents. Fortunately, some postpartum conditions like PPD have gained worldwide attention, making resources more readily-available to parents in need.
While hormone fluctuations and lack of sleep can cause shifting emotions, postpartum depression differs from these short periods of discomfort. Symptoms include the following:
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Sadness, loss of pleasure
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Weight loss or gain
- Detachment from new baby
- Mental fog
- Feelings of unworthiness or guilt
- Suicidal thoughts
Women and men both suffer from PPD, and are more likely to develop the condition if a history of depression is present. Parents suffering from these symptoms are encouraged to seek immediate help. Treatment options include therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which can help transform negative thought patterns surrounding parenthood. Medication may also be prescribed.
Though it has received less attention than PPD, postpartum psychosis is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment. Occurring in 1-2 out of every 1000 deliveries, this rare condition is usually seen in the first two weeks postpartum. Parents exhibiting any of the following symptoms are strongly encouraged to seek help right away:
- Rapid mood swings
- Difficulty communicating
Parents with a history of bipolar disorder or previous psychosis are much more likely to develop this condition postpartum. Psychosis is linked to a 5% suicide rate and 4% infanticide rate. Because of this, immediate treatment is crucial for anyone exhibiting these signs. Medication is the preferred treatment.
Birth-related post traumatic stress disorder
Another commonly overlooked postpartum condition is birth-related post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Obsessive thoughts surrounding the birth
- Disturbing memories
Post-traumatic stress disorder is often thought of as a disorder for soldiers, or survivors of great trauma. The birth experience is rarely thought of as traumatic, though it certainly can be. Women are more likely to experience PTSD than men, and 7-8 out of every 100 people are thought to experience this condition. Parents who find themselves triggered by birth-related subjects may react with fear, replaying of the traumatic event, anxiety, and/or panic attacks. Therapy and medication are both extremely effective. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help sufferers process the trauma and develop new associations with these triggers.
If parenthood has brought about more than the usual change, pay attention to any new symptoms and do not hesitate to seek help. In each of these conditions, the sooner treatment starts, the better for both parents and their children.