The 3 Most Common Postpartum Mental Health Issues

After birth, your body and mind are in an especially vulnerable state, and it’s important to watch for the most common postpartum mental health issues, as well as keeping an eye on your physical health.

When you have a new baby, it can feel impossible to take care of yourself on top of everything you’re doing for your kid, but it’s impossible to be your best self (or the best mom) if you’re neglecting yourself. Physical issues will often present themselves in ways that are tough to ignore, like bleeding or debilitating pain, but mental health problems can be harder to identify.

That’s why we’ve compiled this brief overview of the five major categories of postpartum disorders. We’ll start with the three most common postpartum mental health issues, but we’re also going to go over two more that aren’t super common but can cause serious issues, so they’re worth looking out for too.

The most common postpartum mental health issues

Postpartum blues (PB)

You might have heard mention of the “baby blues” – that’s one term for this disorder, but the clinical catch-all is postpartum blues. PBs are periods of intense sadness, increased crying, and irritability that last less than two weeks; this usually occurs within the first 10 days after birth.

Postpartum blues are extremely common, especially in countries where familial and community support for childbearing women is limited. An estimated 50-85% of women will suffer from PBs, and they’ll go away on their own with some support from friends and family.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

Unlike postpartum blues, postpartum depression lasts anywhere from two weeks to a few years (if left untreated), and can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year after birth.

The symptoms of postpartum depression, or PPD, can include lethargy, intense feelings of sadness, periods of crying, trouble concentrating, disruptions to normal sleep patterns, and  even rage. In extreme cases, women with PPD may feel the urge to harm themselves or their baby – if this is something you’re experiencing, please call or text 988 right away. Help is available.

PPD is very common, with experts estimating that one in seven women experience it, and if left untreated it can last for years (and get worse as it goes on). The good news is that postpartum depression is highly treatable, even without medication.

Postpartum anxiety (PPA)

Like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety can occur anytime in the first year after the birth of a child, and the symptoms can also include irritability, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite. But PPA is marked by intense worry and fear that don’t go away on their own.

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, one of the most common – but also most disturbing – features of postpartum anxiety is the occurrence of intrusive thoughts and hyper-vigilance about the baby’s safety, which can lead to compulsive checking behavior.

Postpartum anxiety (PPA) is extremely common – in fact, many experts believe that it’s more common than PPD. What we do know is that it’s severely underdiagnosed, but most sources estimate that around 20% of women will suffer from PPA.

Two other issues to look out for

Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Postpartum PTSD is estimated to affect around 5.6% of new moms, and it’s most often caused by a traumatic birth. Birth trauma is caused by the threat of or proximity to serious danger to yourself or your baby, but it can also result from dehumanizing treatment during the birthing process.

Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks or nightmares about the trauma, intrusive thoughts, avoidance of reminders or associations with the trauma, and persistent anxiety (and all the symptoms thereof).

Postpartum psychosis (PP)

The rarest of the postpartum disorders is postpartum psychosis (PP), which usually occurs all of a sudden, early in the postpartum period – often within the first two weeks, but definitely within the first three months.

PP is marked by rapid mood swings and high anxiety or hyperactivity, but symptoms can also include hallucinations, delusional beliefs, rambling or disorganized speech, and paranoia. Postpartum psychosis is a mental health emergency and should be taken extremely seriously, as it can present a danger to both mother and child.

If you’re experiencing signs of a postpartum mental health issue, we can help. At Prospera, our mental health coaches are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which are super effective for anxiety and depression.

If you could use some support (and who couldn’t?), why not give us a try? Book your free consultation today.

Content reviewed by Dr. Andrea Niles, Clinical Psychologist

Anne Godenham is a writer and editor with a passion for mental health awareness and accessibility