Giving birth is a huge physical and emotional phase in a woman’s life. After giving birth, your emotions are likely to fluctuate, partly from extreme changes in your hormone levels and partly from tiredness, uncertainty with baby care, changes to routine, constant demands from the baby and the changing relationship with the rest of your family. A difficult or a traumatic birth, illnesses in the baby or the mother, any financial or social stress can also cause mood swings. For most women, these mood swings are mild and settle down within a few weeks. For a few others, the mood swings are overwhelming and may require treatment.

If you are a new mother and experiencing mood swings, it is important that you understand what type of mood swing that you go through, which will help you in recovering better. It is also important for spouses and family members to understand the different types of postpartum emotional challenges that a new mom goes through in order to help support her better.


Baby blues are the most common type of postpartum emotional challenges and about 80 percent of moms face this. This includes crying easily, getting easily overwhelmed or sad, feeling exhausted or lacking confidence as a parent. These are normal and are usually settled within a couple of weeks. All this requires is a supportive environment and a thriving, breastfeeding baby.


PostPartum Mood Disorders (PPMD), also called as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) are much more severe than baby blues and can complicate the postpartum period significantly. Below, we will discuss some PMAD and their risk factors.

Postpartum Anxiety and Panic Disorder:

About 10 percent of women have postpartum anxiety and panic disorder. Symptoms include shortness of breath, choking sensations, faintness, rapid heart rate, chest pain and nausea. It is important to identify these symptoms, lest they immobilize you, and get immediate counseling/treatment.

Perinatal and Postpartum Obsession-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

About 3 percent of women develop perinatal and postpartum OCD, characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive rituals to protect the baby. Obsessive thoughts may include the fear of being a “bad” mother, or fear of hurting the baby. Compulsive rituals may include constant hand washing, cleaning, excessively checking on the baby or constantly checking that doors are locked. These interfere with regular household running and it is important to get immediate counseling/treatment.

Perinatal and postpartum depression:

Perinatal and postpartum depression can occur anytime in pregnancy or within six months after the birth. Symptoms are varied and include the following:

  • Overeating or forgetting to eat
  • Recurring thoughts about hurting oneself or the baby
  • Loss of interest in everything
  • Feelings of hopelessness, despair and exhaustion
  • Feelings of extreme low self-esteem
  • Surprising and frightening outburst of anger
  • Inability to sleep, even when an opportunity arises

If the mother is showing few of these symptoms consistently, it is important to provide her with lots of support and get her into counseling/treatment.

Bipolar Disorder or manic depression:

Bipolar disorder occurs in less than 2 percent of the population. Bipolar disorder begins with extreme mood elevation, energy and grandiose thoughts within days to weeks after the birth. This may be followed by a long-term period of depression. Bipolar depression requires immediate psychiatric treatment.

Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder:

PTSD usually is a result of a traumatic birth experience, a difficult or frightening birth, unexpected sudden illness to the mother, sudden problems for the baby, or harmful care experience during birth and immediate postpartum. Common symptoms include constant flashback to the trauma, recurrent nightmares, anger or rage, and extreme protectiveness of oneself or the baby.


It is very important to seek help. Do not suffer silently thinking it will pass. Most mothers need all the support and help they need. Seek help early, before you start having trouble coping. Appropriate treatment for PMAD depends on the severity of the symptoms. A mild case may be resolved with some self-care ideas; a severe case may need medical intervention and treatment.

Self-care for PMAD:

  • Eat well and get regular exercise
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and any non prescription sleep medication
  • Get enough sunlight
  • Take atleast 5 minutes of yourself each day
  • Get adequate rest and sleep
  • Ask family members and friends for help

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