Baby Blues to Perinatal Psychosis: Understanding The Differences And When You Should Seek Help

How often have you heard the phrases “she’s just postpartum” or “she definitely has postpartum depression” in a somewhat dismissive or diminishing tone? Maybe leaving a taste of judgement behind after the topic is dropped once being labeled? The term “postpartum” seems to be the go-to catch phrase when a mom-to-be or new mom appears to be struggling during the perinatal period and it often minimizes what she is experiencing and leaves the mom believing that what she is feeling is “normal” so she doesn’t seek help.

The perinatal period is defined as pregnancy through the first year postpartum, and during this timeframe a woman can experience many changes in her emotional and mental well-being brought on by hormonal fluctuations, life stressors, and challenging physical changes (to name a few), and while many woman are able to manage these changes with little to no intrusion on emotional stability, there is a relatively high percentage of women who struggle somewhere on the spectrum of conditions that are treatable.

To help you better understand what you may be experiencing and differentiate between common terms you may hear, I have listed some frequently diagnosed conditions and symptoms associated below. If you find that you are connecting with some specific symptoms, it is important that you seek guidance and help from a trained professional for help.

BABY BLUES: Considered a “non-disorder”
Affects 60-80% of new moms
Symptoms include crying, feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, and being uncertain. These symptoms are considered to be MILDLY experienced.

Symptoms are typically due to extreme hormone fluctuation at the time of the birth.
Lasts no more than 2 days to 2 weeks and then dissipates.
You will also experience acute sleep deprivation and fatigue.

POSTPARTUM “blues”: Not a mild form of depression
Present in 50-80% of women, in diverse cultures
Predominant mood: HAPPINESS
Symptoms include tearfulness, lability, reactivity
Unrelated to stress or psychiatric history
Posited to be due to hormone withdrawal and/or effects of maternal bonding hormones

Symptoms include:
Sadness, crying
Unexplained physical complaints
Suicidal thoughts
Appetite changes
Sleep disturbances
Poor concentration/focus
Irritability and anger
Hopelessness and helplessness
Guilt and shame
Lack of feelings toward the baby
Inability to take care of self or family
Loss of interest, joy, pleasure
“This doesn’t feel like me”
Mood swings

ANXIETY symptoms:
* Agitated
Inability to sit still
Excessive concern about baby’s or her own health
High Alert
Appetite changes- often rapid weight loss
Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling/staying asleep)
Constant worry
Racing thoughts
Shortness of breath
Heart palpitations
PANIC symptoms:
Episodes of extreme anxiety
Shortness of breath, chest pain, sensations of choking or smothering, dizziness
Hot or cold flashes, trembling, rapid heart rate, numbness, tingling sensations
Restlessness, agitation, or irritability
Excessive worry or fear
Panic may wake you up.

Symptoms include:
Instrusive, repetitive thoughts (usually of harm coming to baby)
Tremendous guilt and shame
Will engage in behaviors to avoid harm or minimize triggers

Symptoms include:
Rapid mood swings

If you are stuggling with ANY of the symptoms identified above, please reach out to a professional for help in identifying what you may be going through and how you can get help.

As always, please remember that there IS HELP, you ARE NOT ALONE, and you CAN FEEL BETTER! Click here to be directed to Mother Warrior Counseling for support. At Mother Warrior Counseling, MOMS COME FIRST!




**Information provided in blog is courtesy of Postpartum Support International. You can click on this link- PSI– to be taken directly to their website where you will find an abundance of supportive information and help

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