Of all medical complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, postpartum mental health difficulties are the most common.
Up to 80% of new mothers experience symptoms usually referred to as the baby blues. But as many as 1-in-5 new mothers suffer more severe symptoms that should be evaluated and possibly treated as postpartum anxiety or depression.
With May being designated National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, here are 10 symptoms new mothers should take seriously:
Symptoms linked with anxiety disorders:
- Concern about being alone with your child due to scary thoughts or fears of things in your house that could cause harm.
- Racing thoughts that refuse to let you settle down, and which create a strong urge to keep moving.
- Physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches and shakiness.
- A sense of dread, as if something terrible is going to happen.
- Fear of reaching out for help because your child may be taken from you.
Symptoms linked with depression:
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns (i.e. sleeping or eating more or less than normal).
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or your child.
- Feelings of emptiness and a lack of interest in activities that you typically enjoy.
- Feeling angry, irritated or resentful toward your child and/or partner.
- Not feeling bonded to your child, or feeling guilty about the feelings you have toward your child.
If you or someone you know exhibits any of these symptoms, please ask for help. Talk to your OB-GYN, your pediatrician or call an outpatient mental health clinic in your area.
If you don’t feel satisfied with the answers you are getting, don’t stop asking. You can visit Postpartum Support International (PSI) for an online directory of resources in your area, or call PSI at (800) 944-4773 to get a local referral.
If you’re in the Cleveland area, Hanna Perkins Center (216-991-4472) is equipped to help with consultation, therapy, support groups and knowledgeable referrals as needed.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) is the medical classification for a variety or specific medical conditions, including postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. These are temporary when treated. So don’t be afraid to get the help you need; you are not alone.
For more information check out these respources:
Lillia Borodkin assisted in research and writing this post.
About the Author:Kimberly Bell, Ph.D., is Clinical Director of the Hadden Clinic for Children & Families at Hanna Perkins Center; and is the John A. Hadden, Jr. Professor in Psychoanalytic Child Development at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. A licensed clinical psychologist, she specializes in learning issues, parenting, separation anxiety and women’s issues such as Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD).