What are the Types of Postpartum Depression?
Most people think that postpartum depression is characterized by sadness, anxiety and chronic fatigue. However, postpartum depression has a variety of symptoms. This is why the medical community has divided the disorder into different categories.
Each type has unique risk factors, signs and symptoms, treatment courses and progressions. The types are divided by severity. Symptoms can range from short-term and mild, to acute and intense, to chronic and severe.
The different types of postpartum depression are:
- Postpartum Blues (also referred to as “baby blues”)
- Postpartum Anxiety
- Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Postpartum Panic Disorder
- Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum blues, also called baby blues, is the most common form of postpartum mood disorder. It affects approximately 50% to 85% of women. Postpartum blues is the mildest form of postpartum depression. It occurs within the first few weeks after delivering a baby and generally only lasts a few hours or days. It goes away completely within about two weeks.
Postpartum blues differs from postpartum depression in that postpartum blues symptoms do not interfere with a woman’s ability to function in everyday life. The symptoms pass quickly and do not leave a lasting impact on the mother or family. Because postpartum blues symptoms are so common, it is considered normal and not serious for postpartum women.
Postpartum Anxiety Disorder is another common mood disorder developed after giving birth. It often goes undiagnosed because many people believe that new mothers are naturally anxious. Therefore, some symptoms of postpartum anxiety may seem “normal”. Postpartum anxiety is different from other forms of PPD because its symptoms include far more anxious behaviors than primarily depressed behavior.
Predominant signs of postpartum anxiety include:
- Persistent fears and worries
- High tension and stress
- Inability to relax
Like postpartum depression in general, these symptoms may last only a few weeks. However, they may persist for much longer depending on the woman struggling with the condition. Watch for these signs to differentiate between postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety or other types of postpartum mood disorders.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety mood disorder and affects roughly 3% to 5% of postpartum women.
Symptoms of postpartum OCD include intrusive and persistent thoughts. These thoughts usually involve harming—or even killing—the baby. These thoughts are rarely acted upon because mothers with postpartum OCD are aware of and horrified by the thoughts.
Other behavioral characteristics of postpartum OCD include compulsive habits, such as repetitive cleaning and changing of the baby. Because mothers are embarrassed and ashamed by these thoughts and behaviors, postpartum OCD often goes unreported and, therefore, undiagnosed and untreated.
Postpartum Panic Disorder
Postpartum panic disorder is a postpartum mood disorder that involves severe levels of anxiety. It occurs in up to 10% of postpartum women. Women with postpartum panic disorder suffer from extreme anxiousness and repeated panic attacks.
Symptoms of postpartum panic attacks include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightening of the chest
- Heart palpitations
- Consistent and excessive worry/fear
These fears generally involve dying, losing control or going crazy.
Women with a history of severe anxiety and panic attacks are at a greater risk of developing postpartum panic disorder. Thyroid dysfunction can also create a greater risk for postpartum panic disorder.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a unique form of postpartum depression. It affects over 9% of postpartum women. Like general PTSD, symptoms of postpartum PTSD are the result of some real or perceived threat to the mother. This threat or trauma usually occurs during childbirth or shortly after.
Postpartum PTSD traumas may include:
- Birth complications
- The baby being sent to the NICU
- Unplanned C-sections
- Other injuries the woman suffered during delivery
Women who have suffered from other past traumas, including sexual assault or violence, may be at a greater risk of developing postpartum PTSD.
Postpartum PTSD symptoms include:
- Reliving the trauma in flashbacks and memories
- Avoiding trauma triggers
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling detached or numb to reality
Many women with postpartum PTSD also feel a strong sense of guilt, shame and self-blame regarding their feelings about their trauma.
Postpartum Psychosis is the most serious form of any postpartum mood disorder, though it is extremely rare. Approximately 1 to 2 mothers out of every 1,000 childbirths will develop postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis generally begins within the first few weeks after delivering the child.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis included hallucinations, delusional thoughts, extreme agitation, hyperactivity, confusion and poor judgment.
The behaviors of a woman with postpartum psychosis are comparable to the manic behaviors of someone with bipolar disorder. In fact, women with past histories of bipolar disorder and other psychotic illnesses are at a greater risk of developing postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis causes mothers to be unaware of their actions and behaviors. Therefore, this disorder presents a serious risk of suicide or infanticide. This risk equates to about 10%, so immediate treatment—and even hospitalization—are vital.