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Understanding Postpartum Mental Illnesses

Understanding Postpartum Mental Illnesses

“Some of the first days after I came home, I was a little outside myself. My mother remarked that she noticed I had moments of lifelessness, but reassured me that this was entirely normal. It’s for things like that after having a baby that mothers really need emotional support.” – Celine Deon

Key Points

  • There are seven different types of postpartum mental illnesses.
  • Shame, stigma and societal pressure often undermine mothers seeking help for postpartum illnesses.
  • Collaborative care is essential for recovery.

Postpartum mental health illnesses go beyond the most familiar to the general public: Postpartum Depression.

There are, in fact, seven.

Each of these specific postpartum mental health disorders has a postpartum onset, meaning that giving birth is the reason for the onset of symptoms. When we talk about postpartum mental illness, we are not talking about a singular experience.

Each of these disorders has specific symptomology, with a range of behavioral, cognitive, and physical experiences.

  1. Postpartum bipolar disorder
  2. Postpartum depression
  3. Postpartum generalized anxiety
  4. Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder
  5. Postpartum panic disorder
  6. Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder
  7. Postpartum psychosis

Related: The Difference Between Postpartum Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

Why Postpartum Illnesses are Difficult to Diagnose

Studies show that postpartum mental illnesses are tough to detect because new motherhood is generally accepted as trying, challenging, and chaotic by the general public.

Spouses and family members can miss important signs because they believe chaotic adjustments to a new baby are normal. That is, they see you, as a new mom, being overwhelmed and think, well, that’s to be expected.

Spouses, loved ones and friends are not the only ones who have difficulty spotting postpartum mental health disorders. Research reports health practitioners struggle with detecting postpartum disorders.

Studies indicate about 25% of new mothers don’t tell their OBGYNs they’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or exasperated. Data reveals that new moms feel uncertain how to bring the subject up, feel there isn’t enough time to address it, or sense the doctor is in a rush to get to the next appointment.

Baby Buews Vs. Postpartum Depression
Postpartum mental illness

Another reason postpartum disorders are hard to detect is that many new mothers feel insecure that they can’t tend to their baby – and as a result, don’t talk about their struggles.

Research estimates that 7 in 10 women hide or downplay postpartum symptoms. These women suffer in silence because they feel shame or guilt for not being stronger or better caretakers to their baby.

New moms also worry about how health professionals will respond if they share negative thoughts or attachment difficulties with the new baby. Will they take my baby away? Will I have to go to the hospital?

And then there are new moms who think things will get better and aren’t really worrying about their own deteriorating mental and physical wellbeing.

Finally, there are many new mothers who may not even realize they’re struggling with a serious, but treatable mental health disorder. And that within days of getting help, they can begin to feel better and bond with their new baby.

postpartum mental illlness
Understanding Postpartum Mental Illnesses

5 Ways to Get Help

Many of the reasons listed above result in the statistic that only 50% of women with postpartum mental health disorders are successfully diagnosed and receive treatment. This means that 50% of new mothers do not get the care they need.

1. Check-in with yourself. 

It may be difficult for a new mom to see she’s experiencing more than baby blues. Some new mothers feel stress from society, loved ones, and even themselves that adjusting to the new baby is going just fine. 

It’s helpful to stop, reflect and check in with your mental and physical well-being. Am I really doing okay? Is this too much for me?

Home Remedies & Lifestyle.
Fight against postpartum mental illness

Related: Post-Partum Depression: What You Can Do To Fight It

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Deborah Serani

As a young girl, Deborah Serani descended into a debilitating depression - and at age 19, became suicidal. The fallout from this major depressive episode required her to take a medical leave from college in order to recover. Crediting psychotherapy as life-saving, she directed her focus to the field of psychology. Now in practice for 30 years in New York, Dr. Serani uses her personal experiences with depression to inform her professional work as a clinician, author, and professor. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues, with interviews in Newsday, The Chicago Tribune, Women's Health and Fitness, The New York Times, Scientific American Mind, and affiliate radio programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. Dr. Serani has also worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.View Author posts