Many Pinay moms have reached out to us wondering about their emotions postpartum. They have panic attacks, they easily get irritated, they seem to cry constantly, they can't get over the fear something horrible will happen to the baby — in short, they don't feel like themselves. Do they attribute it to hormones? Is it baby blues? When do baby blues become postpartum depression (PPD)?
"The problem is that so many moms hear ‘postpartum depression’ and think, ‘but I’m not depressed! I’m anxious, I can’t sleep, I don’t feel like myself,’ but none of those necessarily sound like depression, so they don’t think to seek treatment," says Dr. Catherine Birndorf, founder and medical director of The Motherhood Center in New York City, which specializes in perinatal or postpartum mental health. She also recently spoke about the parenting challenges of today with The Child Mind Institute.
It may not be PPD, but it can fall under what doctors call Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), a broader diagnosis that address these anxieties and mood disorders associated with a woman's condition after giving birth.
PMADs includes PPD as well as postpartum anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even psychosis and bipolar disorder. About 15 to 20 percent of new moms experience PMADs as a complication of childbirth.
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Who are prone to develop PMADs?
Women with a history or family history of depression and other mental health illnesses
Women who suffered great loss or traumatic birth
Women who had a hard time getting pregnant
A high-risk pregnancy or an unplanned pregnancy
New moms who have struggled with breastfeeding or handling a colicky baby
Relationships problems and financial difficulties are also considered high risk.
But how do you know do you know for sure if you may have just the blues or a specific disorder under PMADs? Here's a comprehensive list of symptoms by The Motherhood Center and based on a compilation by licensed marriage and family therapist Meri Levy, M.F.T., who is also a member of Postpartum Support International (PSI).
About 80 percent of women experience the baby blues or postpartum blues. The key is to note how long you experience the symptoms. If the symptoms persist for more than a month, then it might be time to consider talking to a professional.
These are the most common symptoms of the baby blues:
crying for no apparent reason
feeling anxiety/stress and emotional sensitivity
feeling overwhelmed and exhausted
feeling uncertain about motherhood
having a sense of loss of freedom
Symptoms of postpartum depression
PPD symptoms last much longer than a few weeks and are more severe, so much so that they interfere with the mom’s ability to take care of her baby and accomplish daily tasks. The symptoms include:
Feeling sad, empty, worthless, hopeless, helpless, guilty, or ashamed
Anger, irritability, and sometimes even feeling rage and always lashing out
Crying all the time or for no reason
Always sleeping or not sleeping at all
Feeling exhausted and overwhelmed even by simple tasks
Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Loss of appetite, significant weight change
Loss of interest, pleasure, or enthusiasm for activities that you used to love
Feeling emotionally disconnected from the baby, or partner, and family and unable to cope
If your worries are interfering with your overall functioning, you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety:
Constantly agitated, have a hard time sitting still
Constant and excessive worry about the baby's health or your own
Loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping
Having racing thoughts, feeling like you can't turn your brain off
Shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness or nausea
Sweating, trembling, numbness or tingling sensations
Sudden waking with an overwhelming feeling of dread
Fear of dying, going crazy, losing control
Symptoms of perinatal obsessiveness
This type of PMAD is more likely to develop even in women who have no history of mental illness. Many moms who have postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) think they are rational — they recognize the strange nature of their thoughts and are disturbed by them. But they are less likely to seek help. The symptoms include:
Excessive cleaning, checking, counting, ordering
Obsession with germs, cleanliness
Having intrusive, repetitive, and persistent thoughts, usually of harm coming to the baby that are very upsetting
Feeling disturbed, horrified, and frightened by having abovementioned thoughts
Hypervigilance or acting on her fears of such disturbing thoughts and trying to protect the baby, such as hiding the knives, not bathing the baby or not allowing the baby to be bathed, etc.
Fear of being left alone with the infant
Feeling guilt and shame about disturbing thoughts
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Symptoms of perinatal PTSD
Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often an effect of having a traumatic birthing experience. The symptoms include:
Fear of re-experiencing the trauma
Feeling of anxiety and avoiding triggers or things related to the traumatic event
Postpartum psychosis is a big part of the narrative of the film Tully, starring Charlize Theron, where her family belatedly realized that not only was she not sleeping, she was also having hallucinations. It's a severe condition and is dangerous for both the mom, the baby and her family. It requires immediate medical help. The symptoms include:
Delusions or strange beliefs that feel real
Hallucinations or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
Feeling confused and disconnected from reality
Decreased need for or inability to sleep, insomnia
Paranoia and suspiciousness
Difficulty communicating at a time
Rapid mood swings changes and agitation
Periods of memory loss and may seem manic
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If you're feeling any of the symptoms listed above, seek help. Reach out to your husband or a friend and be honest about your condition. "Tell people you’re struggling and, most importantly let them know how they can help you,” Dr. Birndorf advises.
Come to terms that PMADs is a serious condition that needs medical attention, whether that would require gathering your family and friends to help you, taking medication, or having to undergo therapy or a combination of two or three of these treatment options.
"Getting help when you need it is the point," Dr. Brindorf stresses. If you’re struggling, finding a therapist who you feel comfortable developing a relationship with and who understands your needs is more important than finding a specialist," she advises.
If you need help, ask your ob-gyn for a reference or make a counseling appointment with the Ateneo Bulatao Center. Call +632 426-5982 or +632 426-60-01 local 5268. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org