When postpartum feelings are more than just the ‘baby blues’

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Having a baby can trigger a handful of emotions for women. Most often when you think of childbirth you think of excitement and joy, but on the flip side for some, women can experience just as much fear and anxiety too. And on top of it all, something you may not expect, depression.

Sarah Samore, LCSW, from Intermountain LDS Hospital Behavioral Health Access Center, joined us to share that many new moms will experience what are called postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth. The baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks. It includes mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. 

However, Samore explained some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression (PPD). This type can lead women to experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to care for themselves or for others.

How do you become at risk for PPD you ask? Take a look at the following:

  • Previous mental illness or family history of such
  • A stressful life event during pregnancy or soon after birth
  • Medical complications of mother or baby 
  • Mixed feelings about the pregnancy
  • Lack of emotional support from family or friends
  • Alcohol or drug abuse problems

Samore informed that after childbirth, the levels of hormones in a woman’s body quickly drop which leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. She finds that many new mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth which constant sleep deprivation in turn can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to postpartum depression symptoms.

Symptoms of PPD that need urgent treatment:

  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
  • Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
  • Never feeling good
  • Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Fear of taking medications
  • Psychosis
  • Other mental health issues that can manifest during the postpartum period
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Signs of postpartum anxiety:

  • Worry more than normal about the newborn
  • Terrified of hurting the baby. 
  • Panic attacks 

Signs of obsessive-compulsive disorders postpartum:

  • Intrusive thoughts become prevalent and occur often. 
  • Taking action to avoid intrusive thoughts. 
  • Obsessed with checking things over and over
  • Irrationally concerned about baby’s safety or wellness

Visit LDS Hospital Behavioral Access Center at 324 9th Avenue in Salt Lake City. Walk-in hours are from 10:00am to 10:00pm daily. Call (801) 408-8330 or the CrisisLine at (801) 587-3000.

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