Doctors' NotesLifestyle

Doctors’ Notes: Postpartum Symptoms Explained

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With the unfortunate turn of events that we saw unfold at our nation’s capital, our hearts break at the thought that another child in our community is without her mother this morning.

As news reports continued to flood the media, it became increasingly obvious that this news story was becoming less about an attack on our national security, but another case that would highlight the mental health issues that continue to ravage our community.  With it now being reported that postpartum depression could have been at play, this news is now forcing many new or soon-to-be mothers to take a long, hard look at themselves today.

Could that have been me?  Will that be me?  Is that me?  Here we will explore the mental health issues most commonly seen following childbirth.



Dr. Karla says:

Postpartum depression is defined as symptoms of depression that begin within 12 months of giving birth to a child. While it most often presents in the first 4 weeks, it can present up to a year following delivery.  This is not to be confused with the “baby blues” that often present with increased tearfulness, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy within a week of giving birth.  This is often short-lived, mild, and a distant memory within 2 weeks as the new mom settles into her routine.  Postpartum depression, however, tends to be more severe and persistent.

Some postpartum symptoms and signs include:

*Feeling anxious, irritable, and angry
*Sleeping too much or too little
*Feeling tired or lack energy
*Feeling guilty or overwhelmed
*Unable to care for their baby
*Feeling like a failure as a mother

What makes this so apt to fly under the radar is the fact that signs and symptoms of postpartum depression very closely mimic those of an exhausted mom of a newborn that is operating on very little sleep.  Therefore it is so important to frequently check in with women who have just given birth, and make sure that they aren’t experiencing an unusual measure of negative feelings and emotions.

Dr. Rob says:

Some women in the postpartum period can also develop a more severe mood disorder known as postpartum psychosis. This tends to manifest itself as delusions or unrealistic false beliefs, hallucinations, and irrational thinking.  It is common for women experiencing this to believe that their baby is evil or that they should harm their child as a form of protection in some way.  Additionally, they may hear voices telling them to harm themselves or their baby.  As a result, women experiencing postpartum psychosis are at an increased risk of suicide or fatally injuring their baby.  This is a medical emergency.

I’ll never forget a patient that I saw during my 3rd year of medical school psychiatry rotation.  She had known postpartum depression/psychosis and was admitted to the hospital following one suicide attempt.  She successfully convinced everyone she was well enough to go home, only to commit suicide the next day.  Another young life lost in our community too soon.

While feeling a little “blue” immediately following the birth of a child is extremely common, postpartum depression is only estimated to occur in about 10% of women, with postpartum psychosis being less common at a rate of about 0.1%.  Nevertheless, when it occurs, the potential devastation is blaringly obvious as witnessed by the tragic events at our nation’s capital that have been deemed a postpartum depression/psychosis related incident.

The good news is that there is treatment available. If you or a loved one are experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, please seek medical attention immediately!

It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors:

Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall Magazine and host the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook UrbanHousecallMagazine, and follow them on twitter @urbanhousecall!