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Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: Signs and Symptoms

We often romanticize the process of pregnancy and childbirth.

Make no mistake, it is certainly the most beautiful and complicated process that the human body is capable of. But when it comes to talking about it and portraying it in the media, we tend to imply that the process will always be a perfect fairy tale.

Real pregnant women and mothers know, of course, that this is far from the truth. Between all of the physical and psychological changes that are sure to occur, it comes as no surprise that there are a number of mental health concerns that can arise.

One such mental health concern is postpartum bipolar disorder.

Let's dive into postpartum bipolar disorder, including the signs and symptoms, how it can affect post-pregnancy life, and how new mothers can reduce distress at home and find clinical treatment.

Postpartum Bipolar Disorder Resources on This Page:

Signs You May Have Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

How Postpartum Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Your Life

How To Address Postpartum Bipolar Disorder and Reduce Distress

Therapy for Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Signs You May Have Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a complicated condition. Not every case presents the same and can actually vary wildly in terms of their presentation.

In general, if you experience one or more of the following symptoms after childbirth, you may have postpartum bipolar disorder.

The Depression Cycle

Bipolar disorder is characterized by two "modes," which alternate depending on a number of variables or even at random intervals.

One cycle presents mostly depressive symptoms. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Insomnia
  • Feeling "empty" or listless
  • Not enjoying activities you previously liked
  • Feeling disinterested in day-to-day life
  • Sleeping significantly more than is normal
  • A feeling of sadness or impending doom

Depressive symptoms vary in type and severity between cases. For some women, the depressive symptoms are worse than the manic symptoms - that is, the other half of "bi"-polar disorder - while other women experience less severe depression comparatively.

The Mania Cycle

The second part of postpartum bipolar is mania. Often mischaracterized as the "opposite" of depression, mania can be a very distressing and disorderly episode.

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing the mania portion of postpartum bipolar disorder:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Excessive chattiness beyond normal levels
  • A feeling of euphoria or happiness disproportionate to circumstances
  • Excessive energy
  • Irritability

Typically, bipolar disorder's counter-episodes cycle twice per year. If you experience cycles more frequently than that, you may have a variation of bipolar disorder called rapid cycling.

Some people with bipolar disorder only experience a few cycles during their lifetime. The frequency of cycles depends on a large number of factors, including genetics, treatment progress, life circumstances and transitions, and social support.

How Postpartum Bipolar Disorder Can Affect Your Life

Postpartum bipolar disorder can cause significant distress in one's life. First, there is the nature of the episodes themselves.

Being depressed can limit one's tolerance for social activities, work, and family life. It can make one feel disconnected from life, dissociating from things that once brought them joy.

For postpartum bipolar disorder specifically, a new mother's depression can make them feel apathetic or even resentful toward their child. This, obviously, is something no mother wants, which is why seeking treatment as soon as possible is so important.

On the other side of the coin - manic episodes - irritability, and excessive energy can also have a number of detrimental effects on one's life.

The fleeting euphoria and optimism one feels during a manic episode can result in a number of problems once the mania ends, like unrealistic promises or obligations made.

Irritability can make one short with their family, making it all the harder to care for one's new child.

The transition between episodes can also cause problems, often requiring changes in routine and treatment, which can disrupt home life, social life, and work life.

Luckily, bipolar disorder is fairly treatable with the right mental health condition. There are even a number of at-home methods that may be able to reduce distress and disorder.

How To Address Postpartum Bipolar Disorder and Reduce Distress

First and foremost, the single best thing a new mother with bipolar disorder can do is seek clinical treatment with a mental health professional.

With the right therapist administering the right treatment, new mothers stand a good chance of remission of symptoms.

Medication, as prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist, can also help to reduce symptoms. It's important to only take medication that has been prescribed specifically to you and only in the manner directed by your doctor.

Besides clinical care, there are also a number of ways new mothers can reduce distress at home. Note that these are not clinical treatments and can only serve to temporarily cope with distress. Be sure to seek and continue clinical treatment.

Reduce Stress

This may be unrealistic for new mothers, given that they have an undoubtedly stressful job to do. But we know that stress can exacerbate mental health conditions, so keeping it at the minimum possible amount can certainly help with symptoms.

Try setting aside time blocks for "me" time. Just an hour here and there can work wonders for stress levels, allowing your brain and nervous system to "reset".

Taking a bath, watching your favorite show, or reading a good book are all great ways to relax and get away from it all, even if for just a little bit.

Physical Health

As hard as it can be to do so, it's imperative to take care of your physical body after childbirth. Make sure you talk to your obstetrician about diet and exercise options.

Yoga, for example, can be a low-impact, physically strenuous exercise that's easy on sore joints and a recovering body.

A balanced diet with lots of greens and protein can help your vitamin levels and overall recovery after childbirth.

Just be sure to clear everything with a doctor so you know you aren't pushing it to far.

Therapy for Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you have been diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder or if you are experiencing some of the above listed signs and symptoms, you should get in touch with a mental health professional right away.

Williamsburg Therapy Group is home to Brooklyn's premier collective of therapists, including an unrivaled perinatal mental health department.

Our patient coordinator can help connect you with the right therapist for your situation. Just give us a call.

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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