BOSTON – Many people would assume that having a baby is the happiest time in a woman’s life, but for some it may be the darkest.
Many women experience postpartum blues or so-called “baby blues” after giving birth, which is a mild form of postpartum depression. It usually occurs within a few days of giving birth and is often written off as the normal stress associated with caring for a newborn.
Mothers can be moody, have trouble sleeping or focusing, and cry frequently. Baby blues usually go away in a few weeks. But if the symptoms are more severe and last for more than two weeks, it becomes postpartum depression. The mother may be incredibly anxious, irritable, or angry. She may feel overwhelmed, or wracked with guilt. Women often feel like a failure as a parent and may not be able to care for the baby. Postpartum depression can be treated with therapy and medication.
But some women develop something called postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis is much less common than postpartum blues or postpartum depression, occurring in only 1 to 2 in 1,000 births. It usually appears within two weeks of giving birth as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts, confusion, and bizarre behavior. Patients may be suicidal or have thoughts of harming others, including their own children. Many women with postpartum psychosis end up being diagnosed with an underlying psychiatric disorder, such as bipolar disorder.
Many people may wonder how they survived a tragedy like thein Duxbury of happening.
All women should be screened for mental health problems during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
Those with a family history of mental illness or previous episodes of postpartum depression or psychosis are at greater risk of having it again in subsequent pregnancies and should seek treatment before symptoms begin.
Once it starts, postpartum psychosis is considered a medical emergency. These patients should never be left alone with their children and usually require hospitalization for specialized psychiatric treatment.
for a list of mental health resources, including suicide prevention hotlines. A new maternal care hotline has also been established for mothers or pregnant people struggling with their mental health. Anyone who needs help can call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746. You can call or text to receive support from trained counselors.