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The Correlation Between Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

postpartum depression and substance abuse

The birth of a baby is a significant event in a woman’s life and can trigger a mixture of powerful emotions, ranging from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. In some cases, it can also trigger postpartum depression and substance abuse. It is common for women to experience some “baby blues” in the first few days post birth. There are a lot of hormonal changes, as well as lifestyle changes that can leave a woman feeling overwhelmed. The “baby blues” are often characterized by sadness, irritability and mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, reduced concentration, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. This can occur a few days post-delivery and last for up to two week but is usually transient in nature. However, 1 in every 9 new mothers may experience a more severe form of depression that can be mistaken for baby blues initially, but the signs and symptoms last beyond the initial two weeks and can persist for up to a year after birth. These signs are symptoms of postpartum depression. These signs and symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood and severe mood swings
  • Excessive or uncontrollable crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Severe changes in appetite
  • Extreme loss of energy
  • Fears about being a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Extreme panic or anxiety
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
  • Thoughts that the baby would be better off without you
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

A more severe postpartum mood disorder known as postpartum psychosis could also develop after childbirth which can be characterized by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Severe confusion and disorientation
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Hallucinations and/or delusional thoughts
  • Excessive energy or extreme agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Attempts to harm yourself or the baby

If you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum psychosis, you should seek help immediately.

Postpartum Depression and Substance Abuse

The transition to being a new mom can be challenging and stressful. As a society, drinking to relieve the stresses of parenthood has been reinforced and normalized by popular culture, social media and marketing campaigns. In fact, the idea of drinking wine to cope with the stresses of motherhood has become so socially acceptable that many self-identifying “wine moms” will poke fun at themselves on social media, memes and blogs for their need to unwind after a day of parenting with heavy drinking. Many baby showers, Mother’s Day’s and holiday gifts even revolve around this idea of motherhood and drinking. While this trend is meant to be humorous and light-hearted, it can be a sensitive subject for those who may struggle with postpartum depression and substance abuse.

According to national survey data published in Women Health, new mothers have high rates of alcohol and illicit drug use. There is also a correlation between postpartum depression and substance abuse putting new mothers with postpartum depression at an increased risk of substance abuse. Women who are suffering from PPD may be at an increased risk of trying to self-medicate using alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that nearly 15% of women diagnosed with PPD engage in binge drinking within a year of giving birth. This can be problematic in the postpartum period for multiple reasons.

If a woman is suffering from PPD, drinking can exacerbate symptoms of depression and impact her ability to care for her baby and connect with the baby emotionally. This could lead to arguments with a partner and family, and increase levels of irritability. This is also potentially harmful if a woman is breastfeeding, since according to the La Leche League, alcohol can be passed through breast milk, leading to growth issues, and developmental delays in newborns. Doctors generally recommend that mothers who breastfeed and drink, to either “pump and dump” or wait two to three hours after the last drink to feed their baby again. If a mother is using certain illicit drugs and breastfeeding, researchers have found that it is possible for those drugs to be passed through breast milk leading to severe side effects for the baby. This can create further friction between a woman and her baby. Finally, the more new moms rely on drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, the more they are likely to develop an addiction.

It is important for new mothers and their families to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression and substance abuse, which can help increase the changes of women getting the medical help they may need to deal with PPD before they turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. This can also help prevent new moms from becoming susceptible to longer term substance abuse and addiction that would have lasting impact on her baby’s upbringing.

Drug Rehab in California

If you suspect someone may have a problem with substance or alcohol use, Asana Recovery can help. Contact Asana Recovery or give us a call today at 949-763-3440.Our trained professionals will walk you through the admissions process and make sure all of your questions are answered. The first step is admitting you need help, and is often the hardest. Once you take that first step, there will be a team on your side to help you be successful in your new future.