For Parents

“I never thought it would be like this!”

There is plenty to love about having a baby, especially your child! However, for many of us there is an element of surprise — and sometimes shock — in becoming a parent: “I never thought it would be like this!”. (Click here to take a Depression/Anxiety Self-Test.) We just can’t know ahead of time what it will be like to care for a child, and to face the many changes babies bring with them.

All this said, having a child effects our body chemistry, hormonal balance, emotions and moods.  We may struggle with how we feel about ourselves, our child, and our relationships. Sometimes the feelings are overwhelming. Both mothers and fathers can feel stressed, sad, irritable, or guilty. It may be hard to understand why you are feeling this way; and harder still to talk about it.

Baby Blues (80% of postpartum mothers): Occurs within the first few weeks after giving birth; it is mild and short-lived. May come and go within a day, coincides with feeling just fine; sleeping or crying usually helps. Experience includes: intermittent crying, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, frustration, anxiety, up & down moods, exhaustion, trouble falling or staying asleep. Resolves within 2 weeks. Treatment is not necessary however support is helpful.

Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Prenatal & Postpartum Depression (10-20% of pregnant & postpartum women; 1 in 4 postpartum men, 2 in 4 men whose partners are depressed): Depression (symptoms that persist for at least two weeks) may occur anytime within a woman’s pregnancy or within a year postpartum. Although it is more common than pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, many women suffer in silence. Symptoms include: Feelings of overwhelm, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, difficulty experiencing pleasure or joy, fatigue, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes thoughts of harming the baby or oneself. (Click here to take a Depression/Anxiety Self-Test.)

Sometime people are depressed before they become pregnant, or develop symptoms during pregnancy. Often this experience continues after baby is born and may become more severe. A variety of treatment and support options may be helpful and necessary in order to find one’s way through this difficult experience. Learn more about PPD and known risk factors.

Prenatal and Postpartum Anxiety A woman with PPA may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling. Learn more about PPA, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. 

Physical symptoms may also accompany depression or anxiety such as headaches, heart palpitations, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea/diarrhea, numbness or tingling feelings in limbs, hot flashes/chills. (Click here to take a Depression/Anxiety Self-Test.)

Prenatal or Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Women with PPOCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), recurring intrusive thoughts, and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These thoughts may be scary images or fears of baby being harmed. Often people fear they will lose control. and although frightening, these symptoms are caused by anxiety and have no underlying intent. Obsessive-compulsive symptoms – thoughts and worries, or behaviors that cause anxiety and distress – can take up a great deal of time. Learn more about PPOCD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PPTSD is often caused by difficult pregnancies, traumatic or frightening childbirth, unexpected outcomes, or challenges after baby comes. Symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety, feeling disconnected to current life and/or baby, inability to “move-on” from the trauma, or the need to avoid things related to the event. Learn more about PPTSD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

Postpartum Psychosis (1-2 per 1,000 mothers): auditory (hearing) hallucinations or delusions often about the baby, visual (seeing) hallucinations often as a presence or darkness, insomnia, anxiety, confusion, irritability/anger, paranoia (may inhibit mother from sharing her delusion), mania (restless, hyperactivity, agitation, or elated mood), suicidal &/or homicidal thoughts, bizarre beliefs or commands about harming self &/or child. This severe condition is dangerous so it is important to seek help immediately. Learn more about PPP, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

Many women fear their babies may be taken away from them if they admit to having scary or violent thoughts. In most cases, these mothers are only having intrusive thoughts, and have no real intention of harming anyone. Please know there is effective treatment available for these symptoms.

Getting Help

You deserve to enjoy yourself and your family. Perinatal anxiety & depression require treatment; they may not just “go away” on their own. There are several avenues for seeking and receiving help; the important thing is to keep seeking until you feel better. Please go to our Mental Health Resources page, and explore the topics listed in the side-bar. Here are immediate ways to seek help:

• Tell your doctor or health care provider
• Seek out a mental health provider
• Have a family member or friend call or make an appointment for you

If you are thinking about harming yourself or your child:

* Call 911

* Go to a hospital Emergency Room

* Call your doctor or health care provider

Thanks to Postpartum Support International for clinical information & descriptions..

There is help available.
You do not have to suffer or go it alone!