Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Although symptoms and severity may change over time, these are the symptoms of the five Postpartum Disorders. In addition, these symptoms and disorders may co-exist.

Symptoms of Typical Baby Blues – Not a Disorder
Sadness, cries easily, moodiness, anxiety and worry, lack of concentration, feelings of inadequacy and dependence.

Baby blues occur in about 80% of new mothers with usual onset within the first week. Symptoms generally dissipate by the third week postpartum.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Feeling overwhelmed, feelings of guilt and/or shame, feelings of inadequacy, irritability and agitation, excessive worry or anxiety, short fuse, temper outbursts, sad mood, may cry a lot, panic attacks, sleep problems (too much or too little even when baby sleeps), uncomfortable around baby or lack of attachment, unable to focus, loss of pleasure, changes in appetite, fatigue, may have intrusive thoughts which come out of nowhere and can be scary.

Depression and anxiety occur in approximately 10 to 20% of new mothers. Onset is generally gradual and can begin at any time during the first year postpartum.

Symptoms of Postpartum Panic Disorder
Excessive worry and fear (sometimes fear of having a panic attack), episodes of intense, extreme anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, body trembling, rapid heart beat, hot or cold flashes, sensations of smothering or choking, agitation and/or restlessness, usually no identifiable precipitating event or trigger, during episode woman may fear she is dying, will lose control or is crazy.

Postpartum panic disorder occurs in approximately 10% of women. Onset is usually within the first year.

Symptoms of Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Intrusive, persistent and recurring thoughts or mental images, thoughts may be about hurting themselves or the baby but can be about other disturbing material, thoughts may accompany behaviors that help reduce the anxiety (staying away from baby, hiding knives, etc.), a tremendous sense of disgust and horror about the thoughts, may have incredible guilt and shame about thoughts even though they would never act on them, may continually clean, check, count or engage in other repetitive behaviors, feeling crazy.

Postpartum OCD develops in about 3-5% of new mothers. Onset is usually within the first year postpartum.

Research has indicated that these images are related to anxiety and are not DELUSIONAL. There is an extremely low risk of the thoughts being acted upon. This is not Postpartum Psychosis.

Symptoms of Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Recurrent nightmares, extreme anxiety, continual reliving of traumatic events (abuse, childbirth, etc.), can include flashbacks and physical sensations, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, feeling a sense of unreality and detachment. This can be caused by a real or perceived trauma that may include:

  • Women who have experienced a major injury or complication related to pregnancy or childbirth
  • Women who have experienced a previous trauma
  • Prolapsed cord
  • Unplanned or emergency C-section
  • Use of forceps or vacuum
  • Baby going to NICU
  • Feelings of helplessness, lack of support during birth and delivery

Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis
Visual or auditory hallucinations, delusions- fixed beliefs about reality that are firmly sustained but untrue, delirium- disturbance of consciousness including reduced clarity of awareness of the environment, reduced ability to focus, sustain or shift attention, change in cognition, memory impairment or perceptual disturbance, inappropriate emotional states, abnormalities of awareness, mania- severely elevated mood which may be characterized by distractibility, indiscretion, grandiosity, flight of ideas, increased activity, talkativeness or pressured speech and little perceived need for sleep.

Postpartum psychosis occurs in 1 to 2 of 1,000 births. Onset is typically within 2-3 days postpartum. This is very serious. If the woman is experiencing any of these symptoms take her to an emergency room or healthcare professional immediately. Do not leave her alone!


You are not alone.

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