by Maya Hammer, M.A., Counselling Psychology | www.mayahammer.ca
We all know about the “baby blues”, a common experience of emotional ups and downs in the first week or two postpartum. Many of us, however, have never heard of the “baby pinks,” or The Highs, a feeling of intense happiness or euphoria following birth.
Symptoms of postpartum hypomania include:
-being very active
-decreased ability to concentrate
-impulsivity, e.g., shopping
-decreased need for sleep
These symptoms can be triggered by childbirth and usually subside after 6-8 weeks postpartum. In some cases, however, postpartum hypomania is an early indicator for bipolar disorder, depression, or psychosis. Therefore, it is very important to seek treatment if you or a loved one you know is experiencing.
Pregnancy and childbirth can trigger mental imbalance because of physiological changes such as stress, dysregulated cortisol, increased inflammation, decreased serotonin, and hormonal fluctuations. In addition, psychosocial factors can impact mental well-being including disrupted sleep, the demands of caring for a baby, lack of support, life stress, marital difficulty, or trauma. Genetics plays a part too: a personal or family history of mental illness, in particular bipolar disorder, predisposes a woman to prenatal and postpartum mental illness.
It is important to seek treatment immediately if you notice unusual behaviour in your partner or loved one. Treatment can involve:
1) mood stabilizer medication
2) therapy to stabilize mood and regulate daily schedule
3) support and education for partners and families
For further reading, check out these resources:
A blog post on postpartum hypomania and mania
A mom’s experience of hypomania induced by anti-depressant medication
A study on the prevalence of postpartum hypomania
And another study demonstrating that hypomanic symptoms can be used to correctly diagnose postpartum bipolar disorder.
As well, check out an article in Today’s Parent, and Maya’s appearance on CTV Canada AM talking about the baby pinks.
This post is brought to you by Maya Hammer. Maya Hammer is a psychotherapist in private practice at Thrive Natural Family Health and the Health Psychology Clinic. Don’t miss Maya’s recent interview about postpartum hypomania, or “the baby pinks,” on CTV Canada AM
Dads Get the Blues Too
by Maya Hammer
It is common for women to suffer from depression and anxiety following the birth of a baby. About 10 to 20% of women are diagnosed with postpartum depression. What is less common, however, is our understanding of postpartum depression in men. Recent research has found that 10 to 25 % of new fathers may suffer from depression. Dads or secondary caregivers experience stress related to feeling rejected after the arrival of the child, relationship or marital dysfunction, burden of financial responsibility, grieving pre-baby freedom and lifestyle, or feeling overwhelmed by partner’s postpartum depression.
Paternal postnatal depression (PPND) is often overlooked because, generally speaking, men don’t express suffering the same way women do. For example, men may not acknowledge feeling sad, guilty, and hopeless. Here are some symptoms to look for in men:
- Increased anger and conflict, violent behaviour
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Frustration or irritability
- Lower threshold for stress
- Risk-taking and impulsivity
- Physical symptoms such as headaches, pain, digestive problems
- Loss of interest in work and hobbies
If these symptoms are familiar to you or a loved one you can get help through therapy and naturopathic or psychiatric medication. For more information, check out postpartummen, a website for men suffering from PPND and in the book Postpartum Depression for Dummies, by Dr. Shoshan Bennett that has a section on depression in fathers.
If you are a dad and your partner/wife is experiencing postpartum depression, you can find helpful information at postpartumdads and The Postpartum Husband by Karen Kleiman.
Another great resource is Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell. This book helps to examine how past issues, including trauma or how you were raised as a child, impact your ability to parent.
Often massage is seen as a luxury; an indulgence. It’s regarded as something purely enjoyable, rather than necessary or beneficial to one’s health. Understandably, many of us feel we don’t have the time or resources to prioritize something like massage. It’s therefore reserved for vacations and other special occasions, which contributes to the general association of massage therapy with relaxation and luxury.
Too often people forget that massage therapy is just that: a therapy!
In truth, massage offers a number of benefits, not only physical. In addition to being a wonderful way to improve circulation and combat stress, massage therapy is also an effective treatment for a variety of mood disorders. These include:
Seasonal affective disorder
Depression related to hormonal changes
Depression due to a traumatic event
Anxiety and stress
It’s important to note that massage is not a cure for depression, but for many patients it is a viable treatment for associated symptoms. A lack of the neurotransmitter serotonin is a key indicator of depression. Serotonin functions to transmit messages from your nerves to your brain, and to help you experience positive feelings. Massage is known to release serotonin and other “feel-good” endorphins. Simultaneously, massage helps to suppress certain stress hormones. That’s why you often walk come away from a massage feeling like you not only a happier back or neck, but a lighter heart!
In addition to these neurological results, we know that massage helps soothe muscles. It’s a great way to feel a significant reduction in physical tension, which in turn reduces how tense YOU feel! Massage relaxes you, which helps you to feel calmer and more comfortable.
We know that stress can cause a whole host of other damaging behaviours, including a poor diet, inadequate sleep, and repetitive clenching and stiffening of your muscles. It can negatively affect your relationships and performance at work. That’s why therapies that improve your mental and physical health offer a truly holistic chance at betterment.
So why not change the way you view massage? You don’t have to wait for a special occasion – or an opportunity to “treat” yourself – to begin experiencing its rewards. Consider it as a treatment option if you suffer from a mood disorder, or as an investment to improve your physical health. Make an appointment to meet our RMT Shelley Dukharan, who brings over 3 years’ experience to her massage therapy practice at Thrive Health.
You might find that massage becomes an integral part of your routine for optimal wellness!