I just had a baby, why am I feeling so down?

New moms are always expected to be full of joy as they welcome a new family member, so it can be confusing when you're somehow feeling the opposite after giving birth. In fact, many new mothers experience a period of negative emotion, called postpartum mood disorder, after giving birth.

What is postpartum mood disorder? Signs & Symptoms

I - Postpartum Blues

"The blues" affects 40 to 80% of new mothers. Given the large hormonal, lifestyle changes, and intense emotional experience that occur after childbirth, it is common that many new mothers experience these feelings. Be on the lookout for the symptoms below:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying & Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

These feelings should taper off within 2 weeks with no treatment required. If your symptoms persist for longer than this, or you feel they are particularly intense, it's possible that you are suffering from postpartum depression.

II - Postpartum Depression

13% and 19% of new mothers experiences postpartum depression. It shares many of the same characteristics as the more common postpartum blues, but its symptoms are generally more severe and longer-lasting, which warrants more urgent and directed help. Additional signs that you're suffering from postpartum depression are :

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling unable to bond or take care of your baby
  • Excessive guilt
  • Insomnia/Hypersomnia

The treatment for postpartum depression will depend on the severity of your symptoms, and may include various psychological therapies, medications, and self-care techniques.

III - Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis, the most serious but also rarest form of postpartum mood disorder affects 1 in 800 to 1,000 new mothers. The symptoms can be dangerous (e.g. hallucinations, delusions, and pronounced poor judgment). It is important that you seek help immediately if you develop these symptoms as it can be considered as a medical emergency, and puts you and your loved ones at risk of harm or injury. Medical treatment is essential, and it may require immediate hospitalization.

Risk & Preparation

Given the general psychological stress that you may experience during your pregnancy and the risk of having postpartum depression, your partner and you will likely want to get better prepared before pregnancy. Treatment by counsellors and psychologists may cost between $1,500 and $2,500 per session, with weekly treatment ranging from a few weeks to several years depending on the severity of symptoms.

If the help of a psychiatrist is required, you can expect to pay between $900 and $1,500 per session, with a week's worth of medication costing between $200 and $400. It is advisable to assess your access to quality medical care, pregnancy-related services (such as check-ups and sessions with your trusted obstetrician-gynecologist), and professional help available if you come across any mental episodes.

Keep an eye out for potential insurance coverage for private and specialist care if applicable. Having an idea of your risk profile may also help you to plan better - a history of depression (yourself or family members), recent acute stress, and having experienced postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy all increase your risk.

Seeking Help

If you suspect that you or someone close to you may have postpartum depression, contact a medical professional, or seek help from one of the many organisations that support postpartum depression sufferers.

Counselling services / hotlines:

The Samaritan Befrienders Hong Kong - 2389 2222

Social Welfare Department 24-Hour Hotline - 2343 2255

Hospital Authority Mental Health Direct (24 Hours) - 2466 7350

Remark

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