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We’ve all heard about extreme cases of the “baby blues.” Just when everyone expects a mother to be in total baby bliss, she finds herself constantly crying, feeling worthless as a mother, and maybe even considering suicide or wanting to get rid of her baby. The truth is, this isn’t just the baby blues. It’s postpartum depression (PPD), and it’s not the only postpartum psychological disorder there is. Postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis, along with PPD, are all diseases that mothers struggle with across the world.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is unfortunately not uncommon. Unlike the baby blues, however, PPD does not resolve itself after two weeks postpartum and it is serious enough to interfere with the mother’s day-to-day functioning (source). You should be on the look-out for PPD especially if you have a history of mental illness, if you experience some kind of traumatic event or stressful situation during your pregnancy or postpartum period, or if you are not supported well during your postpartum period. If you experience symptoms such as sadness that won’t go away, loss of appetite, or lack of interest in things you used to enjoy – after two weeks postpartum – you may be suffering from postpartum depression. If at any time you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, you need to either call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-PPD-MOMS (1-800-773-6667), or go to your nearest emergency room, immediately.
Some worry during the postpartum period, especially if you are a first-time mom, is normal. You may be worried about your baby’s wellbeing or if you are doing things right as a parent. Expect this. However, if you experience irrational anxiety – if you are constantly and overly worried about something that has a very low likelihood of happening, like your baby being kidnapped when you live in a safe area, for example – you may be suffering from postpartum anxiety. However, this is only one form of anxiety disorders that occur during the postpartum period. Women may also experience postpartum panic disorder and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (source). If in your postpartum period you find yourself experiencing recurrent panic attacks or the need to engage in rituals in order to not be anxious, consider the possibility of postpartum panic disorder or postpartum OCD.
While extremely rare (occurring in about 0.1% of postpartum women), postpartum psychosis is real and is possibly the scariest postpartum psychological disorder. Women with postpartum psychosis hear voices and experience delusions and visual hallucinations that often cause them to hurt or kill themselves or their babies. It is often very shocking because the woman was “completely normal” before the episode. Even so, it is the families that need to watch out for this, since the mother will not be coherent enough to recognize her disorder.
How to Prevent Postpartum Psychological Disorders
While postpartum psychological disorders are sometimes inevitable, there are certainly some easy things you can do to prevent your chances of suffering:
Live a healthy lifestyle: Eat wholesome and real food, exercise regularly, get 8-10 hours of sleep a night, listen to your body, don’t smoke (pregnant or not) and drink alcohol in moderation (pregnant or not).
Keep your emotional health in check: Practice positive coping skills to manage stress, spend time with God in the Word and in prayer, and avoid negative energy in your life as much as you can.
Encapsulate your placenta to keep those hormones balanced.
Receive adequate postpartum support. This is perhaps the most important. You will not be completely back to yourself until at least 6 weeks postpartum, and you’ll need help until then. This means assistance with daily tasks like cooking and cleaning so you can rest, peer support, and being catered to your every whim! This is one of the few times in your life when you can expect this kind of pampering, so accept and savor it!
I Think I Have a Postpartum Psychological Disorder. What Do I Do Now?
The first thing you should do if you or a family member suspects you may be suffering from a postpartum psychological disorder is call your pregnancy care provider and set up an appointment. He or she will be able to give you a diagnosis and determine the appropriate treatment for your situation. If it is likely that you could harm yourself or others, you will need to go to the hospital. There are some natural ways of treating postpartum psychological disorders that you may consider trying:
Counseling (formal or informal)
A blend of equal parts orange and peppermint essential oils, diffused
Lavender essential oil applied to bottoms of feet
Medication and/or hospitalization may be necessary. Here is a list of medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Have you ever experienced a postpartum psychological disorder? What did you find most helpful in curing it?
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