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Postpartum Mood Disorders: What New Moms Need to Know

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Your baby has finally arrived! Your family and friends are elated and yet you don’t have any sense of joy and delight because all you feel is anxiety and fear. It is important to understand that this is perfectly normal and that every new mom goes through the same process. Throughout your pregnancy, there were fluctuations in your hormone levels but now that your baby is born, they are starting to return to normal. The impact of these hormonal changes varies from one woman to the next and so it is important to understand the different types of postpartum mood disorders. 

Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders 

No matter what precautions you take, you cannot avoid postpartum stress and mood changes. However, it is important understand the differences between normal mood changes and more severe mood disorders. 

Postpartum Blues 

Postpartum blues is the most common type of postpartum mood disorders. According to experts, up to 80% of all new mothers get the “baby blues”. Postpartum blues generally set in when your baby is 2-3 days old and lasts for 1-2 weeks. Most new moms with the baby blues tend to feel sad and weepy and may break down in tears for no apparent reason. Postpartum blues are also associated with mood changes which means that you are likely to go from weepy to irritable and impatient in the blink of an eye. You are likely to feel restless and have problems sleeping which in turn causes fatigue and lethargy. Some new mums with the baby blues experience a loss of appetite and so they ignore their food intake. You may also experience a lack of mental focus and have trouble making decisions. You need to keep reminding yourself that what you are feeling and thinking is perfectly normal and that you just need a little time to rest and recover. 

Postpartum Depression 

Postpartum depression is a more serious postpartum mood disorder as it is linked to negative short-term and long-term effects on child development. Studies show that postpartum depression is not as common as the baby blues and affects up to 15% of mothers. Postpartum depression generally occurs about 1-3 weeks after childbirth but it can take longer – in rare cases, it can take up to 1 year! Postpartum depression is triggered by the sudden and drastic decrease of estrogen and progesterone after childbirth. New moms might think that their baby blues are simply lasting longer than usual, when in fact, they are suffering from postpartum depression. Women who have postpartum depression experience a change in their overall mood. Their overall mood is low and they have frequent crying spells. If you are constantly consumed by feelings of guilt and unhappy as a mum, you might have postpartum depression. Women with a history of depression are more likely to develop postpartum depression. 

Postpartum Psychosis 

Postpartum psychosis is the least common type of postpartum mood disorder but it is also the worst. According to researchers, postpartum psychosis affects less than 0.3% of all new mothers. Postpartum psychosis begins within 4 weeks of childbirth and generally requires hospitalization. Women with postpartum psychosis often exhibit extreme paranoia and suspicion. They suffer from hallucinations and delusions and may even have difficulty communicating. New moms with postpartum psychosis are often unable to sleep and display common signs of hyperactivity. A woman experiencing postpartum psychosis faces a break from reality where her delusions make perfect sense to her. Early diagnosis and treatment is imperative as the condition is linked to an increased risk of suicide and infanticide. 

Treatment options for Postpartum Mood Disorders 

The treatment for postpartum mood disorders varies according to the type of disorder and the severity. Most cases of postpartum blues do not require any treatment but new moms can benefit from counseling and support groups. Postpartum depression generally requires a short course of antidepressants along with cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. Postpartum psychosis requires stronger medication – antipsychotics to reduce hallucinations and mood stabilizers to reduce manic episodes. There is no surefire way to prevent postpartum mood disorders but getting adequate sleep and plenty of social support does help to reduce the risk.  

Most new moms don’t realize that they are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder and instead it is brought to their attention by those closest to them. Experienced doulas can often make out when a new mom’s anxiety symptoms are severe and may require medical attention - she can also help you connect to a therapist or other treatment resources in your area. A Postpartum Doula can also help new moms adjust to their role as a mother and help to provide constant emotional support. 

To find a therapist in the OC area that specializes in perinatal or postpartum mood disorders, please visit our resource page. For more help you can also contact Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773

To get connected with Postpartum Doula in Orange County, please reach out!


Author Bio: Anita Fernandes has been writing extensively on health and wellness for over a decade. She has expertise in nutrition, fitness, public health, and has contributed content to a variety of leading digital health publishers. Anita has a unique perspective on healthy living and lifestyle,as she has battled and overcome chronic pain. She shares her experiences in an effort to help others overcome the physical and mental health problems that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

What Does a Postpartum Doula Do? - Part Three

Today we’ll share our final thoughts on the role of our Postpartum Doula. This is Part 3 of a three-part series on the ABCs of Postpartum Doulas. If you haven’t read through the whole previous parts you can check them out here: Part 1 and Part 2

Why a Judgment-Free Doula Matters

You'll here us talk about non-judgmental support A LOT in our work as doulas. This is the pillar on which our agency stands. But we're often asked, what does non-judmental support really mean? 

I remember the exact moment when I realized how important being a judgment-free doula was. I was at a baby shower chatting it up with some friends, including the guest of honor, the mama-to-be. Someone in the group asked if she had a birth plan. I saw her face fall as she looked directly at me, then looked quickly away. Her demeanor changed as she told us that she had already scheduled a repeat cesarean. 

Earlier in her pregnancy she had come to me asking about VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). I remember gushing about how amazing VBACs were and how empowering they can be. I remember telling her that she should go for it! I recall side-stepping her fears about uterine rupture, explaining that they are a rarity and I recall dismissing her fears about going past her estimated due date and needing to be induced. I cringe now thinking about the assumptions I made and how I projected my personal beliefs onto her. 

It was there at that baby shower that she held a mirror up to my face. After sharing that she was choosing to have a cesarean, she shared that she was nervous to tell me. She was scared that I wasn't going to be supportive or that I would try to talk her into having a VBAC. 

My spirit was crushed.

I was mortified that my passion for supporting natural birth had come across as judgmental and that my words and actions had caused shame and fear. As a doula, I often touted myself as non-judgmental and while I intentionally never made anyone feel bad about their birth experience, it was at this baby shower that I began to wonder just how non-judgmental my support really was. 

Talk about a wake up call!

In that moment I made a decision that changed my approach as a doula. As I apologized to my friend for my judgments and for making her experience seem less than, I made a commitment to myself to do better and be better. I became a doula to make a positive impact on birth and the best way I know how to do that is to be open and unconditionally supportive of all choices. And it is that attitude that we look for in all the doulas we bring onto our team. 

Our support involves no judgment.

None. Nada.

zip. zilch.

completely, 100% Judgment free.

Your birth is yours and yours alone. Yes, there will be family, friends, care providers, and your doulas surrounding you with support and love. But it is your body and your baby, therefore the choices you make are yours. We vow not to project any certain agenda or philosophy onto your unique experience.

Our doulas offer a safe space to share your beliefs about birth and parenting, your fears, and your desires.  Together, you and your doula will create a birth and postpartum plan that encompasses all your needs. And while she is there to answer your questions and offer guidance, she trusts in your capacity to make the informed decisions that are right for you. Even if your plans change down the line, the non-judgmental support will continue. 

It is our belief that with the support of your judgment-free doula positivity will surround your pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey. It is our belief that in providing space to learn and make your own decisions you will find confidence. It is our believe that in being there 100%, no questions asked, you will find comfort and peace of mind. 

The birth of your baby will forever change you. This is your experience, and we will be by your side, no matter what. Your choices are yours, not ours. Your birth is yours, not ours. Your body is yours, not ours. Your baby is yours, not ours. What is ours is our desire and passion for spending this time with you, your partner and your family, offering unconditional support and care. And we offer it happily.

In the Spotlight: Ashley Mullen, Doula

We have a special place in our hearts for this month's spotlight feature... not only because she's an indispensable member of our team, but because prior to becoming a doula, she was first, a DOC client. Orange County, we're delighted to introduce you to Ashley Mullen!

I (Lauren) first met Ashley in high school. She was a new freshman member of the sorority I was president of (yes, high school sororities are a thing in Long Beach... don't ask me why!) so we got to spend a decent amount of time in each other's company. Fast forward many years when I went to a consult with Ashley (not knowing it was her) where we became reacquainted and where I was hired as her doula. 

Let me tell you something about this woman: She is one of the strongest people I know. Not only did she handle her birth like a freaking rockstar, she managed the many challenges of the 4th trimester with grace and humor. She'll tell you herself, she got everything thrown at her once her baby arrived and it was not an easy journey. But she found her way through the darkness and in doing so became inspired to become a doula and help other new moms through similar challenges. 

Ashley is an incredible teacher, not only in her Babywearing 101 class but at in-home postpartum visits as well. She's well-versed in baby gear, has extensive knowledge of breastfeeding and babywearing and has such compassion and empathy for new parents. Her organization and insight will help you prepare your home, your nursery, and yourself for the days, weeks & months after birth. Believe me when I say that you want her on your postpartum team

We are super excited to share her light and passion for postpartum work with you in this months "In The Spotlight!"