When parenting isn't all sunshine and joy.
The birth of a child is a major life change! Every part of your life is touched; physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. It is important for women and their support network to understand postpartum mood changes and disorders before they happen so that if a new mother experiences some of the feelings and physical symptoms associated with the various postpartum mood disorders she can be treated promptly, as quick intervention has been proven to reduce the length and severity of the issue.*
No one knows if a new mother will develop a mood disorder. It can happen to anyone and it is important to acknowledge that it is not the mother's fault. Postpartum mood disorders can happen anytime during the postpartum period. The length of a woman's postpartum period depends on many things, including how fast she heals physically, how long she breastfeeds for, how long it takes the baby to sleep through the night, etc. While medical text books tend to consider the first 6 weeks the postpartum period, most mothers would agree that it is a lot longer than that.
There are certain situations that increase a woman's risk of developing a mood disorder, but often women with no “red flags” can be affected.
Mild Mood Disorders:
The most common cause of mild, postpartum mood disorders in women with no previous mental health issues, are hormones* and lack of sleep.
There are 3 times in the postpartum period where mood changes can be caused by fluctuating hormones
The first week when all those pregnancy hormones drop really quickly, and when other hormones increase to produce breast milk
A) Anytime you reduce the number of feeds/day. For example, when baby stops waking at 2 am and you move from 8 feeds/day to 7 feeds/day.
B) When you wean completely. Baby lead weaning reduces hormone fluctuations as weaning is gradual. Weaning quickly, or stopping “cold-turkey” greatly increases a mother's chances of developing a mood disorder.
2-4 weeks before your period returns
How does sleep deprivation cause/worsen mood disorders?
Everything seems worse when you are tired.
Focus and concentration problems (chronic sleep deprivation is linked to ADD/ADHD)
You react quicker and out of proportion to situations
Increased anxiety, feeling overwhelmed
Increased irritability and anger
What can you do to heal yourself?**
Identify what you are feeling
Identify what might be triggering your feelings
Decide what you can do to feel better about the cause of each feeling and make a plan
Follow through with your plan, this may mean enlisting help of someone you trust or reaching out to a therapist
Know when you need medical help and get it sooner rather than later.
Avoid caffeine and sugar! Studies have shown that ingesting caffeine and sugar makes PPMD symptoms worse.*
This printable worksheet is something that I developed** to help myself and clients focus our thoughts and feelings in order to identify the cause of those feelings and actions we can take to feel better. If you find that your symptoms are not going away or are getting worse talk to your doula, doctor or a therapist, all of whom have referrals that may help you. There is a lot of help available don't be afraid to ask for it.
Other tips for healing from postpartum mood challenges can be found in my pathway to healing visual guide. This guide is an adaptation of the Steps to Wellness found in Jane Honikman's book I'm Listening.
Dads, partners and adoptive parents can also struggle with postpartum mood disorders. Don't be afraid to reach out for help and support!
Books and Online Resources
I'm Listening, Honikman
Overcoming Postpartum Depression & Anxiety: Sebastian
This Isn't What I Expected: Kleinman
The Postpartum Husband: Kleinman
Down Came the Rain: Brooke Shields
www.postpartumstress.com – self assessment tools, information