The widespread condition affecting new moms
Pregnancy and childbirth can be an exciting and stressful time for a mother – a whirlwind combination of hope, love, fear, anticipation and indescribable emotion. Sometimes, the experience of childbirth itself can leave long-lasting effects on the mother, and sometimes those effects are negative, including postpartum depression and the less often discussed postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Between 9 and 10 percent of women experience postpartum PTSD following childbirth, according to Postpartum Support International and Dr. Jennifer Balash, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
“Immediately after having a baby, some women feel sad, anxious or angry,” Dr. Balash says. “They may cry for no clear reason, have difficulty sleeping or even wonder if they have the ability to care for a baby. “
For most new mothers, those feelings should start to dissipate within a few weeks, she said.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), PTSD is defined as having symptoms lasting more than one month after exposure to a traumatic event that include recurrent distressing memories, thoughts or feelings associated with the event; negative changes in thoughts or mood beginning after the event; and/or changes in behavior or reactivity, such as issues with concentration, sleep or hypervigilance.
Women generally complete mental health questionnaires in the hospital and at postpartum visits with their doctors to help stimulate further conversation and discussion, Dr. Balash says. But should these symptoms continue for longer than a few weeks after birth, she encourages women to see their doctors as soon as possible, even before their planned visits.
“Thanks in part to more coverage in the media and on social networking sites, it seems that the stigma of postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD is lessening as there is more and more awareness,” she says. “A woman should be open and honest with her provider – it’s the best way to get the treatment and support she needs.”
About the Author
Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.