After the birth of a child, women, as well as men, can suffer from mental disorder or even psychosis. The best known postpartum mood crisis is the postpartum depression. The treatment is performed on an outpatient or inpatient basis by self-help and professional help by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
This article will cover the following:
What are postpartum mood disorders?
The term "childbed" refers to the time between childbirth and time when a woman has recovered from pregnancy-related body changes. The childbed usually stops between six and eight weeks. The mother is recovering from the pregnancy at this time. During this period, the puerperal disorders or behavioral disorders may occur. The ICD-10 distinguishes between mild mental disorders and severe depression disorders.
The causes of postpartum mood disorders usually consist of several factors, and the severity depends on the individual case.
Causes of postpartum mood disorder
The birth is physically a huge effort for a mother, which can lead to exhaustion. The abdomen, breasts, metabolism and digestion of the mother go through significant changes after birth. In addition, the progesterone level suddenly drops and can cause states similar to depression. The decrease in estrogen levels further causes sleep disturbances. Often, a thyroid hormone deficiency is added to this, which can trigger anxiety or panic attacks. From a biological point of view, the mother suffers from lack of energy, exhaustion and possibly depression after giving birth. Psychological factors are added to the physical factors, too. The birth of a child often confronts the mother with fear or pain and requires that a woman «bids farewell» to her own childhood. New social structures emerge and can become a psychological burden, such as the change of roles from career woman to mother and housewife. Apart from that, many mothers feel pressured by the image of mothers in advertising, films, literature or their own environment. As can be seen, there are therefore enough causes for the postpartum mood crisis.
Symptoms & Signs
The symptoms of a postpartum mood crisis depend on the type of disease. Mild mood disorder or baby blues is the mildest form and disappears down within hours or days. Mood lability, mild sadness, crying, irritability, worry about the child and exhaustion characterise the disorder. In addition to this, there are also irritability, anxiety, appetite disorders and sleep or restlessness and concentration disorders. The main cause of the baby blues is hormonal change within the body.
The same applies to dizziness as well as concentration and sleep disorders. Postpartum psychosis is a serious complication and is associated with paranoid hallucinatory symptoms, which may be characterized by anxiety, agitation and confusion. Mixed forms include mania and schizophrenia in the period after childbirth.
In many cases, postpartum mood disorder (crisis) is not recognized until physical symptoms appear. Many sufferers are ashamed of their mental state and try to hide, above all, suicidal thoughts from their environment. Because of the feelings of shame, most women with mood crisis do not ask for help. In many cases, family members recognize the mental crisis and turn to a psychologist or psychiatrist. The prognosis depends on the form of the disease. Baby blues is easier to treat and has favorable prognosis. Postpartum depression should be treated promptly, since in this case there is a risk of suicide. Post-portum psychosis requires immediate admission to a psychiatric institution and is associated with the most unfavorable prognosis. Sometimes this disease cannot be cured completely even after years.
The birth of a child, especially the first one, represents an exceptional situation in a life for practically all women. The complete restructuring of everyday life and the focus on the child's needs are a challenge for every mother. In this respect, postpartum mood crises are generally not very unusual or worrying.
Once a woman has come into a severe depression after giving birth, it is usually difficult to leave illness behind without specialist medical help. Severe depression affects everyday life. Many mothers affected by depression are barely able to cope with their daily lives and the care of the child. First signs of a postpartum mood crisis should therefore be taken seriously and be well monitored in their course.
Treatment & Therapy
Self-help plays an important role in the treatment of postpartum depression. Equally important is the help from the partner, the family and the circle of friends. The sufferer can also benefit from help with housework and caring for the baby. In addition to family help, the post partum mood disorder usually requires professional help. Severe postpartum depression or psychosis must be reported to professionals as soon as possible. Hospitalization may be required in this case to save both mother and baby's life. In case of professional treatment, measures such as psychotherapy, music therapy and systemic family therapy are available. Most of these measures are combined with drug treatment such as psychopharmacotherapy, naturopathic therapy or hormone therapy. For those affected, there are special outpatient clinics such as the mother and child ambulance for postpartum ill mothers. When in doubt, these outpatient clinics provide in-patient treatment and are open to help not only to mothers but to family members, as well.
Experience has shown that some relationships are risk factors for postpartum mood disorders. These risk factors include, for example, social isolation. In addition, lack of support from partner or family and circle of friends may increase the risk of postpartum mood crisis. The same applies to perfectionism and an exaggerated mother picture of a pregnant woman. In order to prevent mood crises, the mentioned contexts should be counteracted before the birth of the child. A psychologically stable general situation is something to be striven for.
- Beckermann, M.J .: Gynecology and obstetrics. Schwabe, Basel 2004
- Stiefel, A., Geist, C., Harder, U .: Midwifery: Textbook for pregnancy, childbirth, puerperium and occupation. Hippocrates, Stuttgart 2012
- Weyerstahl, T., Stauber, M .: Gynecology and Obstetrics, dual series. Thieme, Stuttgart 2013