Is It Baby Blues, PPD or Temporary Psychosis?
As a new mum, there are many new thoughts, feelings and sensations going through your body and your mind. Considering you’ve spent nine months giving up your former self to becoming that ever-evolving version of femininity, only to change again and officially own the title of mother, it’s uncanny how women are naturally born to adjust. However, the road to and fro can be marred with setbacks that can hang on long after leaving the hospital delivery room. Sure, all new mothers are bound to have a momentary lapse of reason (or two). But all joking aside, how do you know what falls in the normal spectrum of being a little out of sorts compared to experiencing temporary psychosis? Inquiring mums want to know.
No One Pregnancy Is the Same
If you were to ask a woman who has three children what pregnancy and motherhood are like, she’ll go into a long dissertation about every pregnancy, extolling the intricacies of each. Because every pregnancy and every child is different and, so too is the motherhood experience for each child.
If you, a close family member or friend have gone through a recent pregnancy or are just entering into caring for your child, there are a multitude of biological, psychological and behavioral adjustments that can come about. Many of these will be readily accepted while others may prove to be more difficult.
Our Resistance to Change
Every woman is, to some degree, a product of their genetics, family history, life experiences, and the mental meaning placed on each. From there, many will place judgements and carry feelings associated with those meanings such as guilt, shame, anger, sadness, happiness, contentment, and more. Finding emotional balance in this mix can be challenging, especially after giving birth.
There are physical characteristics that a woman undergoes during pregnancy, child birth, and during the first few months after becoming a mother – all of which can support or compromise the ability to regain emotional balance. Here’s why.
Mental Illness after Child Birth
The process of pregnancy, childbirth, and the after effects can cause wide swings in mood, behaviors and more. For all those moments when you feel as though you’ve lost control of your body or your mind, in actuality, this isn’t a far off assumption.
Hormones play a large role in much of our day-to-day function. Too much of one or not enough of another can alter how we think, what we feel, and the capacity to process information correctly and respond in kind. When our hormones are off, mothers can exhibit some strange and scary mannerisms. Unfortunately, it is hard to distinguish whether they are simply part of the typical case of the baby blues after giving birth, post-partum depression, or psychosis, as some of the signs are synonymous in all conditions.
Signs of PPD
Post-partum depression can present within two weeks after childbirth and also have a delayed showing, up to many months after your child is born. Why the difference in timing? A woman’s changing hormone levels, psychological disposition, life stresses, even medications, diet, and physical activity can play a role in the development of PPD.
Many of the thoughts and feelings associated with PPD are a normal part of the process after maternity is over and it’s on to the lifestyle change of motherhood. According to an article in the Journal of American Medicine Association (JAMA) Psychiatry, 1 in 7 new mothers experience PPD. With the increase in women taking prescription medications (as prescribed or illegally), the numbers of PPD can be higher.
Post-partum depression may be evident with the following:
- Current or prior history of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder
- Family history of depression
- Feeling disconnected or isolated
- Feeling or sensations of being trapped
- Shifts in hormones, estrogen or progesterone
- Disinterest in sex or diminished libido
- Sleeplessness, sleepiness, insomnia (excluding the care of the baby)
Though the above signs are a cause for concern, the following symptoms increase the likelihood of PPD:
- Lack of confidence, increase in self-criticism
- Increase or decrease in hunger
- No desire for physical exertion
- Diminished ability to focus, prioritize or organize thoughts or tasks
- General sense of anxiety or incidences of panic attack
- Immersed in guilt about feelings toward self or your baby
- Suicidal thoughts or ideation of harming the baby
Psychotic Break Symptoms
Post-partum depression can come on quickly or gradually over the course of months. Like other types of depressive disorders, PPD left untreated can escalate into co-occurring disorders also known as dual diagnosis. Many women with a mental health condition seek ways to minimize their symptoms. Some use alcohol or drugs, though these only mask the symptoms and do nothing to treat the root cause. Over time, a woman can easily develop a drug or alcohol dependency and both enhance depression and anxiety, increasing risks for drug-induced psychosis and putting the baby in harm’s way.
While there are reasons for a woman with PPD to develop temporary psychosis, this scenario can prove to be dangerous. The following are signs of temporary psychosis after childbirth:
- At least three or more symptoms of PPD (listed above)
- Feelings of grandeur, believing you are a VIP or other well-known person or being
- Heightened paranoia
- False sense of what is reality vs. fantasy
- Hallucinations, hearing voices, seeing people or things that don’t exist
- Disorderly or irrational thought processes
- Catatonia, complete mental meltdown to the point of being unresponsive
How Temporary Psychosis Can Happen to a New Mum
Altered states of reality, psychotic episodes, can come as a result of untreated PPD but there are other reasons as well.
A new mother, or one who has other children in the household as well as a newborn, can feel overwhelmed due to inconsistent or nonexistence sleep, unhealthy or insufficient diet, and exposure to environmental toxins. These can all serve as the trauma to incite PPD and post-partum psychosis.
Some new mums, especially those who don’t have enough emotional support from family, find it necessary to resort to the use of over-the-counter medications, such as NoDoz, or prescription medications like Modafinil, known as Provigil in the US and UK, Adderall, or overconsumption of energy drinks to help them stay awake by delaying tiredness. However, this only postpones the inevitable. Mothers with children need to sleep well, though this fact can also be perceived as a cruel oxymoron. How many mothers of newborns do you know who can do just that, sleep well? Exactly.
For women who had a prior-to-pregnancy active addiction to amphetamines or methamphetamines, such as crystal meth, PPD can be the trigger for drug relapse and use.
Other drugs that can bring about temporary psychosis include:
- Crack cocaine
While there’s no getting around the all-too-normal feelings of anxiousness, temporary sadness, or frustration that often comes as soon as you have to change that first dirty diaper or nappy, post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis are serious medical issues that must be tended to as soon as the symptoms appear.
For women who have a predisposition to these conditions, seeking medical advice from professionals before becoming pregnant is wise as there are actions that can be taken to help reduce the risk of onset after childbirth.
Minimize Your Risk of Post-Partum Depression and Psychosis [H2]
If you are a mom/mum experiencing any of the signs or uncomfortable emotional feelings expressed earlier in this article, it doesn’t mean that you have PPD. Experiencing the baby blues can happen. To help reduce its impact, there are healthy ways to create a more positive livelihood for you and your baby.
Mums must take better care of themselves after childbirth:
- Create a routine for self-care.
- Nap when the baby naps.
- Stay clear of medication dependency.
- Plan social outings.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Find a reason to laugh each day.
- Be picky about your food.
- Talk about your feelings.
- Be patient with you.
These 10 motherhood essentials can do wonders for your personal disposition as well as your baby’s. Remember, children pick up on the emotional wellbeing of their mum. If you’re stressed, your baby will feel it too.
Exercise can help you generate bountiful dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels to help boost and regulate mood. Consider taking up yoga, there are plenty of apps available on your phone to teach you the poses and positive mantra that support physical and emotional strength. Or find refuge in a good book, a favorite song or a track that emanates the sounds of nature. Add some plants or succulents to your living space.
Food as Medicine for Moms
Many people think of food as the end game to their hunger or when in search for a pleasurable, tasteful experience. But food, when chosen correctly and eaten at just the right time, can also help support sleep or the desire to stay awake.
For example, eating at small portion of lean protein such as tuna, salmon, a chicken breast or black beans can boost brain activity. So if you have some chores to do but lack the focus or energy to do them, add some protein to your meal. If you’re having issues with insomnia, refrain from protein intake after six in the evening.
Like many new mothers, setting up the perfect window of opportunity to catch some sleep might be more fitting. To increase the likelihood of getting that wonderful slumber, eat a potato, yam, or cup of pasta. It warms the tummy and provides an initial boost of energy followed by calm, readying you for sleep.
Whenever possible, choose from foods in their natural state. Increase your intake of plant-based foods – vegetables and fruits that are unfiltered and unprocessed. Avoid refined sugars, pastas or rice, breads, cakes, and other unhealthy carbohydrates, as well as artificial sweeteners. And if you are breastfeeding, all the more reason to use organic-based foods.
Make sure to continue with a vitamin regimen, and for an effective surge of energy and feel good overall, discover the benefits of Vitamin B-12 shots available through professional healthcare practitioners.
Be Watchful of Excess Toxicity
Even the most overzealous conscientious mothers can inadvertently put their own mental health at risk. Just like unhealthy foods full of additives, preservatives, and any given GMO mix, household cleansers and laundry detergents can bring environmental toxicity in to your home. Read the labels on all products and use as directed.
Over time and exposure, environmental toxins can increase the presence of heavy metals in your blood, affecting physical and emotional health. Pollutants in our air, water, and soil can also contribute to environmental toxicity.
Going forward, be a health advocate for you, your baby, your family, and friends by staying informed on the natural resources available to get you feeling good today and throughout your lifetime. Motherhood is a lofty and lovely life experience. If you or a woman you care for is exhibiting the signs or symptoms of PPD or temporary psychosis, please seek the advice of your doctor or trusted psychiatrist.