Baby pinks? Postpartum euphoria can be as dangerous as 'baby blues'
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013 10:06AM EST
Most new moms have heard of the “baby blues,” the term often used for postpartum depression, which causes anxiety and feelings of intense sadness. But it turns out there is a little-known opposite condition too, called the “baby pinks.”
The “baby pinks” is marked by extreme euphoria or mild mania after the birth of a baby. The mother will feel over-energized and perhaps describe a feeling of not needing sleep. She might talk too fast and exhibit impulsive or unusual behaviour, as well as a decreased ability to concentrate.
While being overly happy might not sound as dangerous as overly depressed, the “baby pinks” come with their own risks.
Maya Hammer, a Toronto-based psychotherapist who specializes in postpartum mental health, says in some women, the condition, which has the clinical name of “hypomania,” can lead to more intense mental illness.
“If it tips into a more severe illness -- so a bipolar disorder which includes hypomania and depression, or full-blown mania and depression -- then it becomes so that the woman can no longer function and can’t take care of herself or her baby,” she told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday.
The “baby pinks” typically set in immediately after birth and can last for six to eight weeks. It’s not clear how common the condition is, though as many as one in 10 new mothers can experience it.
Women with a history of mood disorders appear to be at higher risk.
In many women, the condition eventually clears up. But for others, it’s the beginning of a long battle with postpartum bipolar disorder, says Hammer.
“So I like to think of it as a ‘pink flag’ or warning that it could lead to a more severe mental illness,” she says.
It’s not certain what triggers mental illness during pregnancy and childbirth, Hammer says, though it’s acknowledged that pregnancy brings plenty of physiological and hormonal changes.
“Then there’s also the psycho-social factors that happen during pregnancy and postpartum, such as the demands of taking care of a baby and disrupted sleep,” she says.
The problem with the “baby pinks” is that they can be hard to distinguish from just the usual “glow” of new motherhood – and even harder for the mother herself to spot it.
“Family members or partners will notice a woman is showing unusual or weird behaviour,” Hammer says. “She herself might not notice because she’s feeling great and she’s able to do a lot. So it’s really important for partners and family members to observe her behaviour.”
Hammer adds that women who think they have developed an unusual amount of euphoria should talk to their doctors about it.
“Especially if a woman has a personal or family history of mental illness, it’s important to seek care immediately, to get in touch with their family doctor and get a referral to a psychiatrist, to make sure she’s treated properly so that it doesn’t develop into a full-blown mental illness.”