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These two terms although very similar have very different meanings and implications.
A woman naturally undergoes emotional changes after she has given birth, which is a mild form of depression or ‘baby blues’ as it is also called. The mother will experience changes in her body as her hormones and physical body will start returning to its normal condition. This usually begins in the first week after birth and is over within two or three weeks.
This mild form of depression will result in things like the mother breaking out in tears for no apparent reason. However, the two terms mentioned above are more than just ‘the baby blues’. Let us consider both of these conditions separately to better understand them.
This term is used in association with the mother’s mental condition after the baby is born and is also referred to as ‘Puerperal Psychosis’. This is a mental illness characterized by severe depression and is not very well known, it only occurs in about 1 out of 1000 women. This condition is very serious and needs to be treated immediately as a medical emergency. This can be life-threating, where the baby, as well as the mother’s life, can be at risk. This type of condition will not go away by itself and the mother needs to be hospitalised, given specialised psychiatric treatment. During this difficult time, she will need the continual support of her friends and family. The good news is that it is a condition that is temporary and can be treated resulting in a full recovery.
This term is connected more with the baby after birth than with the mother but results in the mother’s depression. A mother can show signs within the first 12 months after the baby is born, as the mother is faced with numerous challenges mostly relating to the new-born. These challenges can be some of the following:
- The baby does not want to drink or has great difficulty in drinking
- The new born baby won’t stop crying
- The baby has continual diarrhoea.
- The baby suffers from chronic wind pains
This causes the mother to feel she is unable to cope with the demands of the new-born, and this results in depression. Just like with Postpartum Psychosis, it is a temporary condition and will pass, but it is vital for friends and family members to offer their support and help.
Now that we all are aware and understand the various stages of depression suffered by a new mother after the birth of her child, let us consider Postpartum Psychosis in more depth.
Postpartum Psychosis symptoms
There are many symptoms but most of them fall into the following 5 changes in your body.
- You may experience changes with your sleeping and eating patterns. You will experience a lack of sleep and being unable to sleep properly you will find you do not want to eat.
- Changes in energy levels. You will find that your energy level rises, and you have extra energy and are unable to relax. Feelings of restless and agitation.
- Your thought patterns and sensitivity will change. You will become confused and frightened and feel like withdrawing within yourself. You may even have thoughts of harming yourself and also the baby. You may even experience hallucinations and delusions. These are a reality when you can hear strange voices, see and experience strange things. You become obsessive and lose touch with reality. You can also become suspicious of everything and everybody.
- Behaviour changes: You may feel confused, forgetful and disorganised. Overspending on the budget and making unrealistic plans. You will find yourself struggling to cope with your everyday tasks and duties. Feelings of helplessness and being unworthy as a mother.
- Mood Changes: You will experience sudden mood swings from very low to very high and may become very aggressive and violent. Your depression seems to be persistent with no letting up.
When can you expect symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis to appear? Firstly, it is important to understand when this condition can surface, what are the symptoms and treatments available. In most cases, it starts suddenly without warning and is usually in the first week or two after the baby’s birth. Symptoms may also appear after two weeks and in some cases only after 12 weeks after birth. On the other hand, there have been cases showing signs during the pregnancy itself. This can also last for months or even years if not treated properly.
Are you experiencing any or all of these symptoms? Seek medical help as this behaviour is a medical emergency and can be dangerous to both you and your baby. You as the mother may not be aware of your condition so might be up to family and friends to take action. Immediately make an appointment with your GP or mental health specialist.
Treatment for Postpartum Psychosis
In most cases for this type of mental illness, treatment needs to be in a hospital, if possible, in a special psychiatric ward. At this stage, the child must remain with the mother. However, if the hospital does not have a special mother-baby unit, then a family member or friend will have to step in to assist until she is released. This person should bring the baby to the hospital as often as possible, so the child does not experience separation from its mother. The time the mother spends in the hospital depends on how she reacts and responds to treatment.
In-hospital mental health treatments available:
- Medication: There are various kinds of medication used for this treatment which include antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood. During for her to breastfeed the baby as it could harm the child. The mother needs to be carefully watched, as it may result in further loss and grief and depression.
- Psychological therapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy will be introduced. Also referred to as ‘talking therapy’ where the therapists will get together with the patient and discuss the mother’s experiences. This type of therapy is carried out in an environment where she feels safe and confident to speak plainly about her feelings. These sessions help to change the way she has been thinking and behaving.
- Electro-conclusive therapy: This type of treatment is very seldom used and is only applied when the symptoms are very severe. The therapy is administered under anaesthesia where small electrical currents are sent through the brain. This changes the chemistry of the brain and helps to reverse the mental health symptoms. The treatment is only used after all other treatments have been unsuccessful.
What are the causes of Postpartum Psychosis?
Some women suffer from Postpartum Psychosis, who have no history of the condition. However, there are some very well-known risk factors.
- The mother or any member of her family has a history of bipolar disorder
- Some mothers who have suffered from Postpartum Psychosis with previous pregnancies
- If the mother or a family member has a history of Schizophrenia
- A first pregnancy, there is always a possibility for this condition to surface
- Has the mother been treated for any psychiatric condition before her pregnancy? If she stops the medication because she fell pregnant, this could be a major cause for symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis.
- Complications with delivery, length of the pregnancy as well as in some cases a caesarean section.
Doctors and researches seem to be at a loss to pinpoint the exact causes of Postpartum Psychosis. Mothers experience unstable and inconsistent hormone levels after the birth of a child. During this period many women are more sensitive to changes in their mental health than others. These can include hormone changes of progesterone, oestrogen and thyroid hormones. Other causes that may contribute can include environmental and cultural changes as well as biologic factors. Because a new mother is deprived of normal sleep, this can also cause problems.
How to reduce the risk of Postpartum Psychosis?
One of the most important means of reducing the risk is for the mother to take preventative measures where possible. This means that all pregnant women should test and see if they are at high risk of Postpartum Psychosis. This will allow everyone concerned to be well prepared in assisting at birth. A good idea is to provide a written plan for everyone, describing the care the mother will need after birth. Remember to make regular visits to your mental health specialist, to ensure everything is in order.
How to recover from Postpartum Psychosis?
Remember, recovery from this condition is only possible in a psychiatric ward in the hospital. Here the mental health specialist will provide treatment and most of the patients make a full recovery and are back home with their families within 3 months or even sooner. However, with more severe cases it can last for 6 to 12 months or longer, but most women make a full recovery. There is the possibility that after treatment the patient will still experience depression and anxiety, but this will soon pass. Many mothers might find it difficult to bond again with their child and often feel apprehensive for missing out on spending time with their child. Family and friends can off their support.
Support for Postpartum Psychosis is vital
Family and friends can offer support through this difficult experience, which is very important and has great benefit towards a full recovery.
How can your partner, family and friends assist you at this difficult time?
- They must always remain calm and keep their worries and concern under control
- There is always a need for a listening ear
- Your partner can be of great help for you around the house with things like cooking, shopping and other chores.
- Assist where necessary if there are other children and also help with the baby feeding and needs.
- Your partner can be of great help to you in doing all of these things allowing you to get that well-deserved rest which is vital for your full recovery
- Your partner and family will help a lot in restricting the number of visitors you can have
- Always endeavouring to keep a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere around the house
Do you know of someone in need of assistance or advice concerning Postpartum Psychosis? Please feel free to contact Zwavelstreamclinic. We strive to accomplish wellness through excellence and provide the support and treatments needed to aid in recovery.