Over the years, post-partum depression (PPD) has become more understood among the medical community and general public. But there is another mental disorder new moms can suffer from that many people may confuse with post-partum depression. Post-partum PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is said to be fairly common, affecting about 9% of new moms. But with a lot of the same symptoms as PPD, the disorder is often misdiagnosed, which can lead to improper treatment and a longer road to recovery.
Today reports about the occurrence of PTSD after delivery of a baby and how we are still struggling to understand and give women the right diagnosis that will put them on the path to recovery. PTSD after giving birth to a baby may occur if there were complications during delivery, there was unnecessary medical intervention, if the people around the new mom were not supportive, or if difficult triggering events occurred leading up to the birth. But experts also say that perfectly normal births can also lead to PTSD.
Post-partum PTSD differs from post-partum depression in that the woman often experiences intense anxiety, flashbacks from the birth, fight or flight responses and emotional triggers. Post-partum depression tends to produce more feelings of sadness and hopelessness in new moms. Both disorders can greatly affect a new mom’s ability to bond with baby and function in her day to day family life.
Dr. Daniel Bober, assistant clinical professor at Yale Medical School and New York University Medical School, explains the tendency doctors have to label all new moms experiencing mental distress as having PPD rather than PTSD. Dr. Bober says, “You would think that most practitioners would be able to distinguish between the two, but when they see a woman who has just had a child, they tend to slap that label of postpartum depression onto them.”
Fortunately, new mom Sarah Allevato’s doctors were able to properly diagnose her with post-partum PTSD when she reported lack of sleep, extreme anxiety and an unnatural fear that her baby would become ill. Allevato explains her symptoms saying, “I would wake in a panic that Finn would die from SIDS or would develop an infection so bad that he would be hospitalized. I would often panic for no reason, and I would have to watch Finn to make sure nothing bad would happen.” Though Allevato knows the road to recovering from PTSD is long, she is thankful to have the right diagnosis that has led to the right therapy to get better. She is currently in therapy and on medication that has made her day to day life a lot more bearable. She explains, “I am able to sleep and play with my now happy, healthy toddler. I know I am better focused and a better wife and mother because of it.”
What do you think of post-partum PTSD?
Do you think it is difficult for doctors to decipher between post-partum depression and PTSD?