Taking a new baby home should be a time of overwhelming joy and excitement. This time can also be extremely stressful for most women as they experience concern for their healthy baby and significant lifestyle changes. Some anxiety and nervousness is considered normal during this period; however, increasing fear and worry, great sadness, or “not feeling normal” may be a sign of more significant problems.
It is not uncommon for women to experience a roller coaster of emotions during the first days after delivery “happy one minute; crying and sad the next” a period often referred to as the “baby blues” (most commonly seen on the third or fourth day after delivery). More than 50% of new mothers will experience the “baby blues.” Although each woman’s experience may be different, the “baby blues” are often characterized by feelings of disappointment, crying for no known reason, irritability, impatience, anxiety, or restlessness. These feelings are likely due to biochemical changes and new mothers should be reassured that the situation is generally transient. Symptoms usually go away without treatment within a few days up to two weeks after onset. However, new mothers with the “baby blues” should be monitored for development of more severe psychiatric disturbances such as postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.
Anxiety and Depression
It is normal for new mothers to worry about their babies, but worrying excessively is not healthy for the new mother or her baby. A mother may be worrying too much if she is constantly afraid that something will harm her baby, afraid that she will hurt her baby, afraid to be alone with her baby, or is spending most of her time trying to protect her baby or to get theses ideas out of her head.
Often women who experience postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety have never experienced these types of symptoms before, especially with such intensity. If you experience the “baby blues” for longer than a few days or notice more serious symptoms, please notify your physician immediately. It is important to seek treatment promptly to ensure that you are able to properly care for your baby and so that the symptoms can be resolved and you can experience all the joys of motherhood.
While the exact cause for postpartum depression is not known, it is likely that a number of different factors, such as the changing of roles (as a spouse and new parent), hormonal changes, stress, a personal or family history of depression or other mental illness (especially postpartum depression), and marital strife may be involved.
Signs of Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is an illness that happens to 1 out of 1,000 mothers having a baby. It is an emergency and you should contact your obstetrician immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Extreme nervousness
- Hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that are not real)
- Having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
- This condition requires immediate attention, as the new mother may become a risk to herself or to her baby.