Postpartum depression affects up to 11 to 17 percent of mothers within the first year of giving birth according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Federal estimates report that up to 85 percent of women who give birth may suffer from what is called the “baby blues”. This might include crying, mood swings, decreased sleep and just a general feeling of being overwhelmed. These symptoms typically go away after a couple weeks or so without treatment.
Postpartum depression is different. It can last much longer and is more severe. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG), it can occur anytime within a year of childbirth but typically starts about one to three weeks after delivery. Some women might have trouble taking care of their children, while others might seem like the perfect mother while suffering inwardly. They might experience feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in everyday activities. Some experience delusions and paranoia. Others might behave out of character, are easily agitated, irrational and out of control. Some people brush it off as being temporary and due to the stress of being a new mother. But when these signs are exhibited family members should take immediate steps to seek help. Their loved one might be experiencing postpartum psychosis and should be taken to the psychiatric emergency. After leaving the hospital, family members should monitor their loved one close. Being compliant with medication and doctors appointments are crucial in stabilizing their behavior and returning to some normalcy.
Some individuals diagnosed with postpartum depression might decide to stop taking their medication after feeling a little better. There is an extremely high risk that these symptoms might return. In extreme cases, there might be more serious consequences than one would like to image. An example of this can be found in today’s headlines. In Washington at Capitol Hill Miriam Carey a young lady that was killed by the police due to her erratic and unpredictable behavior. Carey’s sister Amy Carey-Jones said on CNN’s “AC360” that a few months after her sister’s daughter was born, she was diagnosed with postpartum depression with psychosis. She further reported her sister made progress with medication and counseling.
This is a difficult time for the family and there are going to need support. Education, support, and resources are available for families and the community through The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Postpartum Support International and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHS). The NAMI has local chapters in Miami and supports groups. There are also many mental health professionals that are available to assist individuals and their family with this disorder.