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Postpartum Mood Disorders: A Breakdown



When most people talk about postpartum mood disorders, they are talking about postpartum depression. In online support groups you will see acronyms like “PPD” or “PPMD”. Depression is certainly one of the most common mood disorders that women experience after the birth of a baby, but it is certainly not the only one. Nor is it isolated to birthing women, partners, and adoptive parents can experience it as well. Here are the most common PPMDs:

Baby Blues: It is estimated that 80% of women will experience the baby blues following the birth of a baby. This is likely due to fluctuating hormones. It can include weepiness, sadness, and fatigue. The baby blues usually last up to two weeks.

Baby Pinks: The opposite of the blues, those who experience the Baby Pinks are often described as having a type of extreme euphoria, even mania after the birth of their child. They often do not feel the need to sleep, are hyper-energized and sometimes talk to quick or exhibit impulsive and unusual behaviour. The baby pinks are much more unusual but should be addressed with a primary care provider immediately as they can be indicative of a postpartum bipolar disorder.

Postpartum Depression: Often referred to as “PPD”, postpartum depression continues long after the baby blues should fade. For some, symptoms can include crying, sadness, fatigue or lethargy. Others may experience irritability, anger, or frustration. Many find sleep disturbances above and beyond the normal sleeplessness many new parents experience. Others also have changes in their eating habits and may gain or lose weight rapidly.

Postpartum Anxiety: Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) is characterized by racing thoughts and an inability to settle down. Many describe intrusive thoughts and fears that something bad might happen. It is also common to worry about things done or left undone, such as locking the door, or paying a bill. You may pace or be physically unsettled, you may even have a panic attack and not be sure why.

Postpartum OCD: Postpartum OCD (PPOCD) often accompanies PPD and PPA. The intrusive thoughts that many experience can become small obsessions; making sure the baby’s diaper is on just so, or that something is done an exact way. You may become irritable when someone else takes over the task and doesn’t do it the way you want it done, or you may experience feelings of dread if you aren’t able to do something the way you planned in your head.

Postpartum Psychosis: A very small percentage of women experience Postpartum Psychosis (PPP). Typically occurring very suddenly, it is characterized by delusions and/or hallucinations and constitutes a medical emergency requiring immediate hospitalization. Symptoms can include extreme agitation, religious preoccupations, and severe insomnia.

When you meet with your postpartum doula, you can ask her to go over the symptoms of postpartum mood disorders with you and your family. She will be able to guide you towards self-screening tools that you can use to speak with your doctor, as well as making suggestions for resources in your community so that you can seek help. She is also there to help lighten the load while you focus on the necessary self-care.



Photo by Dima Bushkov. Used under Creative Commons licensing