Following the birth of a baby, a wide range of emotions is possible. Often, there are the expected feelings of excitement and joy, along with the relief that “It’s all over!”
Mothers can also feel overwhelmed, uncertain, frustrated, or anxious.
Caring for an infant is hard work. Regardless of how prepared you were or how much you looked forward to your baby’s birth, this first year will include some unexpected “highs” and “lows.” Time, patience, and support from family and friends are all helpful during this period of adjustment.
Sometimes, in spite of help and support, women feel bewildered and concerned about themselves. These more confusing emotions can be classified into three categories: the blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis.
The blues is an extremely common reaction occurring in the first few days after delivery, usually appearing suddenly on the third of fourth day. This feeling of letdown after the emotionally charged experience of birth is experienced by 50 percent to 75 percent of new mothers. Symptoms can include crying for no apparent reason, impatience, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. This is the most common, the least severe, and most well known of the postpartum reactions. Symptoms of the blues are briefly unpleasant and usually disappear on their own, sometimes as quickly at they came.
Although one in ten new mothers experience various degrees of postpartum depression, it still remains one of the least well-known postpartum reactions. It can occur within days of the delivery or appear gradually, sometimes up to a year later.
Symptoms can include:
- Nervousness, anxiety, panic
- Sluggishness, fatigue, exhaustion
- Sadness, depression, hopelessness
- Appetite and sleep disturbances
- Poor concentration, confusion, memory loss
- Over concern for the baby
- Uncontrollable crying, irritability
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Guilt, inadequacy, worthlessness
- Fear of harming the baby and/or yourself
- Exaggerated highs and/or lows
- Lack of interest in sex
A woman suffering from postpartum depression can experience one or a combination of the above symptoms. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. They might be changeable. With “good” days alternating with “bad” days. Although postpartum depression does not take the same form for every woman, all of the symptoms can be equally distressing and often leave the woman if she if “going crazy.”
Postpartum psychosis is the most severe and fortunately, the least common postpartum reaction. It occurs in about 1 in 1,000 women, usually within the first two weeks after the birth. Symptoms are very exaggerated and severe. They can include insomnia, hallucinations, agitation, and bizarre feelings or behavior. Postpartum psychosis is s serious emergency and requires immediate medical help.