Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders: What Are They?

Unfortunately, women are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. When you pair these emotional disorders with raging hormones, it can completely overwhelm you. This is the case during the postpartum period.

Postpartum: What Does It Mean?

The term postpartum refers to the time following childbirth. During this time, women face many new challenges. They must learn to care for their little ones while also taking care of themselves and adjust to the new situation. Plus, they may be learning to breastfeed. Which can be extremely difficult in some cases.

On top of the numerous changes happening in their life, their hormones are going crazy too. Throughout pregnancy, the hormone progesterone slowly builds up until it is being produced at an extremely rapid rate. This hormone relaxes your ligaments and fights the effects of the hormone prolactin. After giving birth, the production of this hormone nosedives.

Another hormone that drops during the postpartum period is prolactin. This hormone typically does not drop for four to six months post-baby. That is because this is the hormone that induces the production of breastmilk. Throughout the pregnancy, progesterone fights the effect of prolactin. When the production of progesterone nosedives, the prolactin hormone may begin to affect the dopamine levels. This is unfortunate because dopamine is the hormone that affects our feelings of happiness.

Psychiatric Disorders and Postpartum

A postpartum state seems to increase the likelihood of a few different psychiatric disorders. It is vital to your health and happiness that you communicate any mood changes with your doctors. These mood changes are contributed to the changing hormones that accompany the postpartum period. In many cases, your doctor can prescribe a medication to reduce the effects of these raging hormones.

Postpartum Anxiety

Postpartum anxiety is a less publicized issue new mothers face after childbirth. It is not a mainstream issue like postpartum depression, but it does often accompany postpartum depression. You may be suffering from postpartum anxiety if you do not necessarily feel sad, but you are worried and fidgety

Postpartum anxiety is characterized by racing thoughts, frequent worrying, and irrational fears. It is more than worrying about whether your baby may be hungry. It is an intense fear of something bad happening and the feeling of something heavy crushing your chest. In some cases, postpartum anxiety may even cause panic attacks. 

If you worry that you may be displaying symptoms of postpartum anxiety, discuss your symptoms with your doctor. They can help you determine whether your anxiety stems from your new role as a parent or something more.

Postpartum Depression 

Postpartum depression is a very common mental state, post-pregnancy. Thirteen percent of new moms struggle with postpartum depression. About one in every ten of these moms will experience a stronger and longer-lasting state of depression. Even women who do not experience postpartum depression, face the baby blues. Unfortunately, the lower levels of dopamine contribute to lower energy levels, slower metabolism, and mood swings

At the hospital, before taking the baby home, you will be asked to complete a survey. Your obstetrician will also request that you complete the survey at your six-week postpartum check-up. This survey assists your doctors in determining whether you may be suffering from postpartum depression. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should report it to your doctor immediately.

  • Frequent sadness
  • Excessive tearfulness
  • Frequent feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Inability to eat, sleep, or concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts

Postpartum Psychosis 

Postpartum psychosis is similar to a manic episode that causes the new mother to lose touch with reality. This condition is rare and only affects one or two women out of one-thousand. The episode typically begins with an inability to sleep and irritability. It progresses to the new mother seeing, hearing, and believing things that are not true. The following symptoms accompany postpartum psychosis. If you believe a loved one may be experiencing any one of these symptoms, help should be found immediately.

  • Hearing voices or sounds that are not real
  • Delusional beliefs that are often associated with the new baby
  • Unusual behavior
  • Rapid cycling moods
  • Disorientation
  • Violent or suicidal thoughts

Final Thoughts

You are not alone. Eighty-five percent of women experience mood changes post-baby. These changes can be extremely difficult to manage. Your hormones are taking you on an unexpected rollercoaster ride. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms related to the three conditions above, contact your doctor immediately. You do not have to suffer alone. There is plenty of help available for you and other mothers who have experienced what you are going through.

Published by alswartz

I am an aspiring novelist working on my first book. I have an interest in mental health and each of my works is related to mental health in some way.

2 thoughts on “Postpartum Psychiatric Disorders: What Are They?

  1. Thank you for raising awareness about postpartum psychosis and some of the other perinatal mood & anxiety disorders. This post just popped up today on my WordPress; your name looks familiar and I may have been touch a while ago. 🙂

    Anyway, my name is Dyane Harwood and in 2007, I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder, which is not the same as postpartum psychosis.

    I wrote a memoir “Birth of a New Brain—Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder” and I’d behappy to offer you a free PDF copy if you’d like one.

    “Birth of a New Brain” is endorsed by Kay Redfield Jamison, Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Dr. Wendy Davis (Executive Director of Postpartum Support Intl.) and by 20+ other perinatal and bipolar mental health luminaries.

    My International Bipolar Foundation “Psych Byte” Postpartum Bipolar Webinar touches on postpartum psychosis and explains the similarities and differences between the two perinatal and anxiety mood disorders.

    Thanks again for your post!

    Take care,



    1. Diane, I would love to read your book! I greatly appreciate your feedback. It is always so wonderful to hear that something I’ve written touches the life of someone else.


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