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What Adele, and other new moms, need to know about postpartum depression

13 signs a new mom needs help NOW

Adele, you are not alone. 

The pop superstar gave an interview in the most recent edition of Vanity Fair and talked very frankly about her battle with postpartum depression, following the birth of her son. She said her postpartum depression made her feel "very inadequate" and as if she "made the worst decison of my life."

New moms experience all sorts of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that their non-pregnant selves would never dream of! In the first few weeks after delivering a baby, about 80 percent of women will experience crying for no reason, impatience, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, sadness and trouble concentrating.

When do these feelings extend beyond “normal” and into the danger zone?

According to Diana Lynn Barnes, PsyD, an expert on maternal mental health, these are common feelings expressed by women with postpartum depression:

  • No one has ever felt as bad as I do (helplessness)
  • I have made a terrible mistake (anxiety)
  • I am all alone and no one understands (isolation, withdrawal)
  • I’m a failure as a mother, woman, and wife (guilt, diminished self-esteem)
  • I will never be myself again (hopelessness)
  • I’m losing it (despair)
  • Everything is an effort (exhaustion)
  • I have such trouble deciding (disorientation, confusion)
  • I feel like I have soda fizzing through my veins (anxiety)
  • Sometimes I think everyone would be better off without me (suicidal thinking)

Luckily, risk factors for postpartum depression are known, so at-risk women and their families can be proactive about their postpartum mental health. Make sure your pregnancy care provider knows about:

  • Personal or family history of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum depression or psychosis.
  • Personal or family history of thyroid illness, chemical dependency, or alcoholism.
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
  • Past experience of trauma (physical, emotional, sexual abuse).

Postpartum psychosis is a serious, life-threatening illness that increases the risk of a mother committing suicide, killing her baby, or abusing or neglecting her baby. It occurs in about 0.1 percent of births, begins suddenly within two weeks of delivery, and may require emergent psychiatric hospitalization. A personal or family history of bipolar disorder, postpartum psychosis, or a previous psychotic episode are the most ominous risk factors, but women without any risk factors can develop postpartum psychosis. If you notice a new mom experiencing these things, it’s time to get help NOW:

  1. Strange ideas or beliefs which are often of a religious nature, i.e. receiving prophecies, supernatural baby, evil baby (delusions).
  2. Hearing commands.
  3. Receiving secret messages from TV, music, books, online, etc.
  4. Unwanted and disturbing urges to commit violent or other terrible acts.
  5. Hallucinations involving smell, sight, or touch.
  6. Intense fear of what she might do and a desire to escape.
  7. Inability to sleep, a drastic increase in energy, euphoria (mania).
  8. Not making sense when talking, easily distracted (disorganized speech, flight of ideas).
  9. Frequent arguments, irritability, annoyance, and conflict with family members.
  10. A false idea that people close to them are dishonest, dangerous, or trying to hurt them or their baby (paranoia or suspiciousness).
  11. Confusion about where, when, and who they are time (disorientation).
  12. Obvious lack of self-care.
  13. Feeling unable to care for her baby, or extreme worry that she can’t keep the baby safe.

The great news is that postpartum depression and psychosis can be effectively treated, especially if help is sought early.

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