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Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is not really a separate mood disorder from major depression or bipolar disorder. The word, "postpartum" is a specifier used as additional diagnostic information to describe the onset or occurrence of the depressive episode associated with major depression or bipolar disorder. For instance, a person could receive the following diagnosis:

Related Features
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This Isn't What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression,
by K. Kleiman, V. D. Raskin


More Books...

Major Depressive Disorder, Single Episode, Moderate, With Postpartum Onset

"With Postpartum Onset" describes an uncommon depressive episode that begins within four weeks of giving birth to a child and may affect up to 10% of new mothers. It is very different than the "baby blues" that women can experience usually 3-7 days after delivery. Many women with postpartum depression may experience great anxiety, panic attacks, spontaneous crying, difficulty sleeping, and a lack of interest in their new child. A woman's mood may fluctuate and seem inconsistent, and there may even be the presence of psychotic features (delusions, hallucinations). If this is the case, a woman should receive immediate medical attention and hospitalization may be necessary. Whether or not psychotic features are present, a woman may have suicidal thoughts, continuous thoughts about violence towards her child, a difficulty with concentration, and she may feel and appear to be quite agitated.

With regard to psychotic features, if a woman experiences delusions they may be about the child. For instance, a woman may believe that her child is evil, that he/she is doomed somehow, or that he/she is gifted with magical powers. Although a woman may harm or even kill her child when she is not experiencing psychotic symptoms, it tends to be more common when a psychosis is present. She may hear voices telling her to kill the child, or may harm the child as a result of certain delusions or beliefs about the child.

Psychotic symptoms may occur in 1in 500-1000 births and may be more frequent in women who have given birth for the first time. If a woman experiences a postpartum depression with psychotic features, her risk of developing it again with future deliveries may be between 30% and 50%. For those who have already had postpartum depression, their risk of a second episode with psychotic features is higher. The risk is also higher for those who previously have had a mood disorder.

Many women are frequently reluctant to tell anyone about their negative or depressive thoughts and feelings. They often feel quite guilty about them since they believe that having a new child is a time when they should feel very happy. Postpartum depression is a condition that is very treatable. Leaving it untreated can sometimes affect the quality of bonding and relationship between a mother and her child.



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