MUSC Women's Care

musc women's care

Postpartum Mood Disorders Program

New mothers are often told that “this is the happiest time of your life”.  In reality, it can be one of the most stressful times of your life.  And for one in ten women, they may experience overwhelming psychological changes, which replace the feelings of joy and affect the maternal bonding with the infant.  These women may experience:

  • high anxiety levels,
  • despondency,
  • insomnia,
  • frequent crying,
  • and fear of harming the baby.

For women suffering from these changes, they may feel “out of control” and may be afraid to care for their baby. Many women have feelings of guilt and disappointment and are ashamed to admit what they are feeling.  They are suffering from postpartum depression.

There are five postpartum mood disorders:

  • The most common are the “baby blues” which are experienced by 50-80% of all new mothers.  The “baby blues” occur within the first week postpartum and usually persists for up to 3 weeks.  Common symptoms are mood instability, sadness, lack of concentration, and dependency.  Many of these symptoms are due to hormonal changes, as well as, the physical and emotional stress of childbirth.
  • In 15-20% of mothers, postpartum depression or anxiety may develop.  It may develop anytime in the first year after delivery.  Some of the common symptoms are excessive worry or anxiety, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, sleep problems, lack of feelings towards the baby, and change in appetite.  Risk factors include a personal history of depression/anxiety, social isolation, or history of thyroid dysfunction.  Postpartum depression can be treated with antidepressants as well as therapy.
  • In 3-5 % of new mothers, they may develop obsessive symptoms.  They may have repetitive and persistent thoughts, they may even have thoughts of harming the baby.  Treatment includes medication and therapy.
  • Panic disorder may develop in 10 % of postpartum women.  They may experience severe anxiety, shortness of breath, chest pain, or palpitations.
  • A very small number of women may develop postpartum psychosis.  This may occur in the first 2-3 days postpartum.  Symptoms include delusional thinking, visual or auditory hallucinations, and delirium.  Women experiencing postpartum psychosis in general need to be hospitalized for further treatment.

Women's Care at MUSC strive to educate and screen patients for symptoms of postpartum depression during pregnancy and at the postpartum visit.   This team is sensitive to the emotional as well as the physical needs of pregnancy.  The team is comprised of a physician, and a clinical nurse specialist with a specialty in high risk obstetrics and psychiatric mental health nursing.  Women can be immediately accessed into support and treatment utilizing a variety of internal and community resources.

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