Paying Attention to Postpartum Mental Illness

During the postpartum period, approximately 85% of women experience some type of mood disturbance. Even those women who have never suffered from a mental illness can experience the after-effects of the postpartum period. Many women suffer from what is known as “baby blues,” which is a feeling of sadness and anxiety that occurs in the first couple of weeks after delivery. However, some women go on to experience more serious conditions.

Women are often afraid to seek help for their postpartum mental illness. Some women fear that they will be seen as weak and unable to care for their child. Other women fear that efforts to seek help could even lead to their children being taken away from them. However, it is important that we recognize the various types of postpartum mental illness and that greater awareness of these conditions can help women.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression usually appears during the first few months but can appear at any time after delivery. Some women even experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy. It is clinically indistinguishable from other types of depression and includes symptoms such as:

  • Depressed or sad mood
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Frequent crying
  • Feelings of worthlessness and incompetence
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Suicidal thoughts

Postpartum Anxiety

Significant anxiety symptoms can also occur postpartum. Most women feel a general sense of anxiety and nervousness, but some women can experience anxiety attacks and hypochondria. In addition, some women report intrusive and obsessive thoughts about things such as harm coming to their baby.

Postpartum Psychosis

Not as common as anxiety and depression, postpartum psychosis is a rare and serious event. The onset of symptoms can begin as early as 48 to 72 hours after delivery. The symptoms closely resemble those of a bipolar manic state. Women with postpartum psychosis experience rapidly changing moods, confusion, and erratic or disorganized behavior. Delusional beliefs often centered on the infant, can occur. There is a significant risk of infanticide and suicide.

Seeking Help

It is crucial that women with postpartum mental illness seek the help they need. As a society, we must recognize these conditions and not place a stigma on needing mental health treatment. Women should be supported when they suffer from a postpartum mental illness so that they can work on getting through it.

If you or a loved one has a mental disability and has been arrested or convicted of a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Elizabeth Kelley specializes in representing individuals with mental disabilities. To schedule a consultation call (509) 991-7058.

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