What Are the Different Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders

January 19, 2024

Bringing a new baby into the world can be both an extraordinary and scary time. A physically and emotionally demanding experience that can leave profound effects on the body, mind, and emotional wellbeing. In addition, the major changes to environment, daily life, and relationships that occur during this time can all trigger postpartum mood disorders.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Most women, and many men, experience some degree of mental health struggles during the postpartum period. Understanding these disorders is a valuable step in getting the help you need and deserve, or providing support to your partner who is struggling with one.

Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum depression is the most well-known postpartum mood disorder, impacting 1 in 7 women. Certain factors may increase the risk of developing PPD, including a history of depression, stressful life events and lack of social support. Unlike the ‘baby blues’, which typically last a couple days, PPD symptoms are more intense, and can interfere significantly with your ability to care for yourself, your baby and handle other daily tasks.

Symptoms of PPD can include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness and tearfulness
  • Feeling distant or withdrawing from loved ones
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)

Postpartum anxiety is a condition characterized by excessive worry and fear. Risk factors are similar to those of PPD and can include a history of anxiety or depression, thyroid problems or a difficult pregnancy or birth. While it’s normal to feel anxious about your baby’s health or your abilities as a new mother, PPA can be overwhelming and debilitating. 

Symptoms of PPA can include:

  • Excessive worry and fear
  • Racing thoughts and inability to sit still
  • Disturbances in sleep and appetite
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Postpartum OCD involves unwanted and intrusive thoughts about harming the baby, followed by intense anxiety and attempts to manage these thoughts through repetitive behaviors (compulsions). 

Symptoms of PPOCD can include:

  • Persistent, intrusive and terrifying thoughts about the baby’s safety
  • Compulsive behaviors to reduce anxiety
  • Fear of being left alone with the infant
  • Hypervigilance in protecting the infant

It’s essential to remember that these thoughts are symptoms of the disorder, not a reflection of your character or parenting ability.

You Are Not Alone. Help is Here.

Therapy is instrumental in treating postpartum mood disorders. If you or your partner are experiencing postpartum mental health struggles, or are at elevated risk for developing them after your pregnancy, know that compassionate and effective care is available. 

Catherine Rye is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor based in Minneapolis, MN. Specializing in postpartum mental health, Catherine is certified through Postpartum Support International. Reach out today to schedule an introduction begin your path toward healing.