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What Is PPD?
Getting Help

Have you or a loved on recently experienced any of the following:

Is pregnant
Has recently had a baby
Has ended a pregnancy or has miscarried
Has stopped breast-feeding
Underwent fertitlity procedures

Are you aware of the “hidden” problems that often occur before, 
during, and/or after pregnancy? 

Studies show that up to 80% of new mothers experience some type of transitional difficulty during pregnancy or after baby is born.
Information and planning are the key to a better transition.

Most women are faced with unexpected changes such as conflicting emotions, new challenges, and time management concerns.
Typically, these issues are not addressed in traditional childbirth education classes, leaving parents feeling lost, incompetent, uninformed and overwhelmed.

There are several "categories" of difficulties experienced by mom either during pregnancy or after the baby arrives. Most women become confused about what is "normal"  following the birth of a baby and are afraid or embarassed to ask or seek help ("suffering in silence"). Remember, this is an area (postpartum - or after the birth) that traditional childbirth classes only briefly touch on (their goal is to bring mom and baby through the birth process safely!). And we, as independent women, often isolate ourselves by not speaking up to others about an area in our lives that is "off" - such as having a pretty hard time adjusting to motherhood and a new baby.

Sometimes women can be open and communicative; other times, we can be strangely silent. (For instance, how many women gave you the "real scoop - blow by blow" of their actual birth experience while you were pregnant? Or maybe more accurately, how many of us want to hear this honesty before we go through it ourselves?) Sharing realistic postpartum experiences seem to fall into the "silent" category.

We believe the silence needs to be broken - and we are all moving in the right direction! Ignorance is misery; knowledge is bliss! Keeping those thoughts in mind, the following is a very brief outline of the most common postpartum difficulties that we are "speaking out about." It is important to remember that women are all different. Some women will have all the symptoms listed, some will only have one or two. A very lucky minority will have none at all.

As licensed clinicians focused on "knowledge is power", we are active members and supporters of Postpartum Support International (PSI). We urge visitors to our site to visit the PSI site for the most reliable and up-to-date information regarding postpartum issues. We concur with the PSI positition that

"As the public awareness of perinatal depression has grown, the recognition of perinatal anxiety disorders has received more attention. The range of disorders includes: anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Each of these disorders may occur in conjunction with symptoms of depression. The diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorders is also included under the umbrella of perinatal mood disorders. As health care professionals are better able to identify these subtypes, they will be able to design specific treatment programs for you, so that you may more quickly recover from and control your symptoms."

Baby Blues

This is the most common of all of the postpartum difficulties and occurs between 3-14 days after birth. Many women say that it feels like a really bad PMS. Women may experience all or just some of the symptoms. Symptoms can last a few weeks to a few days and include:
• Lack of sleep/No energy
• Food cravings/Loss of appetite
• Anxiety/Worry
• Sadness/Crying/Oversensitivity
• Lack of feelings for baby
• Feelings of being overwhelmed
• Loss of self-confidence
• Irritability
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Although baby blues and PPD may look similar, symptoms seem to worsen after a few weeks rather than subside. Women may experience all or just some of the symptoms. If you or a loved one is experiencing the following symptoms, call your physician because help is easily available. Symptoms include those experienced with the Baby Blues and the following:

• Hopelessness/Helplessness
• Feelings of inadequacy/Shame/Guilt
• Loss of all interests including sex
• Oversleeping / Not able to sleep
• Fantasies/Bizarre thought pattern
• Nightmares/Hallucinations
• Overconcern/No concern/Anger towards baby
• Feeling out of control 

Postpartum Anxiety
The PPD symptoms may also be mixed with anxiety symptoms. Many who have experienced this report that the feelings can even resemble a heart attack. Again, unlike Baby Blues, symptoms will seem to worsen or not go away over time. Women may experience all or just some of the symptoms. If you or a loved one is experiencing the following symptoms, call your physician because help is easily available. Symptoms include:

• Loss of breath
• Headache
• Numbness
• Shaky feeling
• Chest palpitations
• Restlessness
• Unable to sleep or settle down & relax
• Racing thoughts
• Excessive worries or fears

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

The PPD symptoms may also be mixed with anxiety symptoms that take on an obsessive (thoughts) and/or compulsive (behaviors) feature OR these may be experienced without depressive symptoms.

According to Postpartum Support International, "This disorder is one of the most under-recognized and under-treated types of perinatal mood disorders. It occurs in approximately 3 to 5 % of new mothers, yet it can be most alarming for a new mother. The symptoms include intrusive and persistent thoughts or mental images and a sense of horror about the thoughts/images. The thoughts are typically accompanied by behaviors to reduce the overwhelming anxiety that accompanies the thoughts."

These compulsive, ritualistic behaviors often include checking baby frequently, obsessively searching for information on the internet/books, etc. For example, a mother may have an irrational fear that she is going to drop the baby down the stairs. Consequently, she may avoid using the stairs or even going near a staircase. These mothers are NOT in danger of harming their infants and are disturbed by these troubling thoughts."

Again, if you or a loved one are experiencing the afore-mentioned symptoms, call your physician because help is easily available.

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An estimated 1 to 6 % of women will experience a postpartum traumatic stress disorder. The primary symptoms of this disorder include:

Trauma re-experienced (through dreams, thoughts, etc.)
Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event (thoughts, feelings, people, places, details of the event, etc.)

Persistent arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, and an exaggerated startle response).

Again, if you or a loved one are experiencing the afore-mentioned symptoms, call your physician because help is easily available.

Postpartum Psychosis

 The rarest of all of the postpartum illnesses, this is shown to affect about 1 in every 1000 births.  Symptoms occur between 3-14 days and initially resemble PPD.  If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the following symptoms, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately. Severity is the key in diagnosing (by a trained and licensed professional) and symptoms may include:

• Excessive energy that is frantic looking to observers
• Refusal to eat
• Total irrationality (may exhibit bizarre hallucinations, incoherence, and/or confusion)
• Loss of memory

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency requiring immediate intervention because of the risk of injury to the infant or suicide by the mother. However, women with postpartum psychosis may not recognize that they are having problems and may be unable or unwilling to seek treatment. If family members or friends suspect the mother may be experiencing a postpartum psychosis, they must alert professionals promptly.

The most important information to take with you is that THERE IS HELP AVAVILABLE!! You are NOT alone. You are NOT a bad person. You are NOT a bad mother. You DO have the choice to feel better. You DO have the option to get help!

Please visit our Getting Help page for treatment options and how to start feeling better as soon as possible.







Copyright 2005 Sue Clifford, LPC-S. All rights reserved.
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