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The Difference Between Baby Blues, Ppd and Postpartum Psychosis

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Depression is a completely unexpected result in women who birth a child. Besides many other emotions that are completely normal such as joy, fulfillment, and pride, depression is especially powerful because of its inappropriate nature. The fear and anxiety just do not make sense to many child-bearing women. Eighty percent of women have the “baby blues” after the birth of a child. About ten to twenty percent have a more serious type of distress that we call Postpartum Depression, PPD for short. In extreme cases, postpartum psychosis, which is a severe type of PPD develops. The positive side of PPD is that it is not a permanent debilitating disease. And it has nothing to do with the woman having some sort of weakness. In many cases, treatment obtained as soon as possible manages the symptoms and allows the mother, and the family, to enjoy the new infant. What is the difference between baby blues, PPD and Postpartum psychosis? Baby blues do not normally require treatment or a doctor’s care. 

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Postpartum depression is far more serious and might interfere with the woman’s ability to take proper care of her baby. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical treatment. With baby blues, the mother may feel weak, upset and alone to a surprising extent, even though there is usually more than the usual number of family and relatives present. Their after-birth feelings are worse because they never expected them and certainly do no match the joy they think they are supposed to feel. Baby blues usually begin around two to three days after the birth. Upset, depressed and anxious are the usual adjectives used to describe the thoughts and feelings. They may even feel angry with the baby, the husband or the other children, and for no logical reason anyone can figure out. 

The mother might have bouts of crying, trouble sleeping, problems with making decisions, and almost without exception a mother with the baby blues will question her own handling of the baby. If the baby blues do not get better fairly soon, it could be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is more serious than baby blues. As a matter of fact, many of the signs and symptoms are the same as in an individual suffering from major depression, which includes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, along with behavior changes like different sleeping and eating habits. With postpartum depression, though the symptoms may be somewhat similar to baby blues, they are far more intense and last longer, and again they do interfere with the mother’s ability to care for the baby and to perform other household tasks. Insomnia, overwhelming fatigue, loss of libido, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends, and even thoughts of harming oneself are typical signs of PPD rather than baby blues. However, with postpartum depression as opposed to psychosis, though a mother might fear harming her baby, those feelings are almost never acted upon. 

The thoughts may be scary in that she may not want to be left alone in the house with the baby and guilt felt about those feelings may make the postpartum depression worse. The most severe form of postpartum depression is called postpartum psychosis. This is quite rare and normally becomes apparent in the first two weeks after birth. The signs that it is most definitely psychosis is that there are actual attempts to harm oneself, not just thoughts, but actual action to do so. Confusion and disorientation, hallucinations and delusions, and even paranoia are all distinguishing characteristics of this very serious form of psychosis. Immediate medical help must be required. There is no question in this situation that harm could come to the mother, or in extreme cases, the child. There may also be physical sign with postpartum depression. 

Frequent headaches, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shakiness and shortness of breath suggest the type of anxiety associated with postpartum depression. Treatment should be obtained for depression. Both medication and counseling can be helpful. It is clear that without intervention, postpartum depression can become worse, be more intense, or just last longer than if not treated. There does not seem to be a correlation between a mother’s age or the number of children she has, and postpartum depression. It will occur more often in women who do not have any familial emotional support. The other factors that increase the percentages of having the depression are having had it before with previous children, having had a psychiatric illness of some sort, or some serious recent stress event such as losing a loved one. There are experts who think that the cause of postpartum depression and its associated problems are related to imbalance or deficiencies in hormones. There is a significantly larger fraction of both birth mothers and health experts who will say that is “bunk.” They would present evidence that hormones may play a part but certainly do not present the entire picture of the disorder. As there are documented cases of adoptive mother having postpartum depression, hormones would not explain these situations. 

Body, mind, and lifestyle factors most likely all contribute to cases of postpartum depression and in any combination. It is highly unlikely that any two women have the same experiences or lifestyle, it would be easy to see why they could be the cause of one woman suffering from PPD while another does not. When you think about it, any of these, plus hormonal problems thrown into the mix, could explain why a woman can easily handle the rigorous demands of her day-to-day life but finds the stress of a new overwhelming baby.  

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