The Baby Blues … Or Something Else?
Reported November 14, 2005
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) — Many women suffer from postpartum depression after pregnancy. Sometimes, however, the baby blues is actually a different disorder.
Mary Ellen Lukasiewicz, a mother of three, says, “I would have him sitting on my lap watching TV or reading, and I’d have a thought just to push him off my lap on the floor.” She says those thoughts haunted her after the birth of her first son … And got worse after her third child. “The worst manifestation that I had was that I was going to strangle them, so that I could do that with my own hands, and I didn’t need any kind of other weapon.”
Lukasiewicz was diagnosed with postpartum depression, but it never went away. After the birth of her third child, she attempted suicide. Steven Rasmussen, M.D., a psychiatrist at Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., finally gave her the right diagnosis — postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Researchers believe OCD occurs after a woman gives birth because of a change in brain chemicals that regulate social behaviors. “It can paralyze the person with anxiety and various types of rituals that can take up most of their way of everyday life.”
Establishing rituals and having obsessive thoughts typically involving a fear of hurting the baby characterize postpartum OCD. Postpartum depression is marked by a lasting sadness. Lukasiewicz says: “It was horrible. It was like a war going on inside my brain all the time.”
Relief came when she started behavior therapy combined with anti-depressants to boost her serotonin levels. At the same time, Lukasiewicz also started doing some self-therapy of her own; writing poetry about living with OCD.
Dr. Rasmussen says 70 percent of women suffering from postpartum OCD have a family history or show signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder prior to pregnancy. Symptoms often worsen after the baby is born. Dr. Rasmussen adds women should not be ashamed of their thoughts and should recognize they need to seek treatment.