Four Postpartum Psychological Problems Mothers Need To Know About

Written by Noman Ahmed
6 · 16 · 17
Postpartum Psychological Problems

Pregnancy brings about dramatic physical, chemical and emotional changes in the body. Few people are aware of the influence of these changes on the mother’s mental health. Even though these effects last only a few weeks, not being prepared for them can make them more severe and affect the wellbeing of the baby. This article discusses four common mental health problems in the postpartum period along with their symptoms and available treatment.

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is normal and nothing to worry. Few parents expect it because nobody talks about it enough. Both men and women experience postnatal depression as they go through the emotional and lifestyle changes in the first few months after the birth of the child. Identifying the symptoms of postpartum depression can be difficult because cultural norms teach mothers to ignore them and wait for them to pass away.

Most of the time this is true, but if the symptoms persist for more than a couple of weeks, it may be a sign of postpartum depression. Typical symptoms of postpartum depression include feeling low or less energetic, frequent urges to cry, irritability, exaggerated fear for the baby’s safety or being alone, insomnia, marked changes in appetite, weak concentration, and the desire to get away from it all.

As mentioned earlier, the difficult thing about the depression is identifying that it exists. Treating it is relatively easier since there are many cases in which psychological therapy has helped to treat postpartum depression successfully. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps parents to become effective self-monitors and to analyze the origins of their own thoughts and behaviors. CBT develops a heightened sense of awareness among parents about the reasons behind how they feel, which helps them to avoid feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts and develop more positive, realistic thought patterns.


Hormonal changes in the body during and after pregnancy cause Anxiety. Anxiety manifests in urges to cry as well as heightened sensitivity and irritability. As with depression, the critical step is to identify anxiety. This is extremely important because the treatments for anxiety and depression are different, and it is easy to confuse symptoms of one with the other. Postpartum anxiety can take various forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and phobias.

Mild levels of anxiety are common during pregnancy and after childbirth as the body adapts to the drastic changes taking place. Symptoms of anxiety include feelings of restlessness, muscular tension, frequent episodes of feeling fearful or worried, and repetitive behaviors like checking up on the baby.

Treating anxiety can be with a combination of medication and psychological counseling. Often, both approaches complement each other, so approaching a psychologist and a psychiatrist is recommendable. Psychiatrists normally prescribe antidepressants. Patients can safely take them during pregnancy or while the mother is breastfeeding the child to avoid any effect on the baby. Counseling methods include behavior therapies that enable the individual to develop a deeper perspective about their problems and become better at coping with feelings of fear and worry caused by specific situations.

Bipolar Disorder

Compared to postpartum depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder is relatively easier to identify. People with bipolar disorder experience varying emotions ranging from extremely negative to extremely positive moods. Although it does not seem to be so, bipolar disorder can become serious if left untreated. An important feature of bipolar disorder is that it is hereditary. Therefore, if others in the family have experienced bipolar disorder at some time in their lives, then you should be attentive. Keep a check on developing bipolar disorder symptoms during and after pregnancy. Feelings of depression and fear are common and the earliest symptoms of the condition.

The presence of different symptoms for depression identifies the bipolar disorder. Such as the phase of heightened negativity and mania, the phase of heightened positivity. The symptoms of depression are the same as those for postpartum depression. That is unexplainable urges to cry, heightened fear and feelings of depression. Episodes of mania are easy to identify. There will be reduced sleep and high energy levels. The patient will frequent engagement in risky behaviors, hyperactivity, irritability, and feelings of grandiosity.

As with postpartum depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder is controllable by a combination of pharmacological and psychological therapies. Medication largely consists of antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Psychological counseling includes cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a relatively rare but serious psychological condition experienced by women. This form of psychosis is that it increases the risk of self-harm or injury as well as harm to the baby. Therefore, it is crucial to identify symptoms as early as possible. According to the most recent research on the subject, postpartum psychosis and bipolar disorder are related. Therefore, the two share several symptoms.

As with bipolar disorder, marked shifts in mood characterize postpartum psychosis, thought patterns and behavior. The symptoms may emerge anywhere between two days to three months after childbirth. Typical Symptoms of this psychosis include insomnia, high energy levels, irrational fear for the baby’s safety, and decreased appetite.

Postpartum psychosis is relatively complex; hence, one must seek its treatment upon detecting the symptoms.  Medications are usually the first line of defense. A good psychiatrist will generally recommend a course of antidepressants, mood stabilizers and antipsychotic. These control the manic-depressive episodes. In many cases, the mother will need admission to a psychiatric ward to receive treatment and to minimize the risk of self-harm or harm to the baby.


Cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy are usually a great help. They develop a positive relationship between the mother and the baby. It also helps to deal with symptoms. In severe cases, treatment may involve electroconvulsive therapy.

Educating oneself about the possible mental health issues during childbirth goes a long way. It helps develop an emotionally healthy mother who can provide the necessary care to her baby. Having someone to talk to during pregnancy and creating a relaxing, supportive environment for the first few weeks after childbirth helps. It reduces the severity and duration of postpartum psychological problems.

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Noman Ahmed