Well yes and no. Hormones can turn up or down the emotions slightly, however, when you don't recognize yourself something else may be at work. It's all fun and games until a pregnant woman gouges your eyes out; easy to blame the hormones.
I read many baby books ,pregnancy books and not a one had great postpartum information. Some had dedicated small sections but that was it. Had I known about all the effects of postpartum I certainly would've added 'that' book to my arsenal. Easy to read about the aches and pains of pregnancy, the lack of sleep when the baby arrives (often before), and all the stuff baby needs; no one mentioned the aftermath.
I had some idea my hormones would go haywire but I clearly was not prepared for the antepartum aftermath. The narcotics I was sent home with were so strong I didn't realize I needed to wean off of them (yeah I received the handout but did not read it). The few days before my doctor prescribed Zoloft because she said me crying everytime baby and I were in the car was not normal and 'sounds' like postpartum depression/anxiety. I didn't want to take all these pills so the day before I stopped (cold turkey) my pain medication. What happened afterwards began the nightmare.
About 12 hours after, I started to feel strange. Noticed my pupils were dilated but thought it was due to the poor lighting. While changing her, my knees started turn to jello and my vision began to get narrow; instantly I thought I was going to faint. I threw her in the bassinet and screamed for my mom (thank goodness she was with me). I ended up going to the hospital by ambulance. The nurse knew right away what the issue could be; narcotic withdrawal. However I insisted it had to be something else; heart attack (I am 40 and used to smoke), stroke (I am 40 and used to smoke), blood clot in my calf (I am 40 and used to smoke), had to be something that was going to kill me right there and leave my newborn motherless.
No it was just narcotic withdrawal. The incident made my 'slight' anxiety spiral out of control. I experienced depersonalization; horrible feeling. I would cry in the shower because I felt I didn't know who I was, what was going on and everything felt like a dream. Two days later my mom had to leave; I cried and begged her to stay knowing my husband had to go back to work; I feared for my life and for my newborn's life.
My fear for her life was a fear of me dying and leaving her motherless. My only dark thoughts about her were not that I didn't love her or want her, I kept having thoughts of maybe I'm not cut out to be a mother (I am 40 and I used to smoke). I washed my hands and her bottles until my hands would bleed because I was afraid of her getting sick then I would get sick and would either die from a deadly bacterium or become too sick to take care of her.
Fears began to compound. I was afraid to drive anywhere because someone might kill us or I would have a heart attack while driving (I am 40 and I used to smoke) and the car would crash killing both of us. Well I would've been dead already from the heart episode. People said take a walk with her. I forced myself to. I had fears someone would come up and take her or while walking I would have a heart attack (I am 40 and I used to smoke) and someone would either keep her or know one would know who she belongs to.
Just some of my fears: Public restroom because of germs. Being in public because of germs and possible kidnapping. Germs in the house. Taking a shower I might slip and fall. Anything could set me off into a panic attack. I hated that feeling. I ended up seeing my therapist weekly and increased my medication-even that increase gave me anxiety thinking the new dosage would kill me (because now I read the handouts).
My depression and anxiety alternated. Gotta tell you, I prefer the anxiety at least stuff would get done. In order to keep my monsters away, I would clean to keep my mind busy. The depression just wanted me to sleep all of the time. No one mentioned I would have hot flashes from my hormones going haywire; I thought I was dying from a fever. I took my temp and it was of course normal but thought the gauge was broken. Sleep deprivation compounds. Dehydration can also play a part in ppa.
All these fears, thought, anxieties are not because I am 40 and I used to smoke; it's the baby blues on steroids. If you've experienced depression or anxiety prior to pregnancy, chances are it can flare up horribly after delivery. Nothing wrong with asking for help, at least on the way to the hospital for my c-section I had enough sense to call my therapist and schedule appointments in advance. I suspected things may go awry and not just because I am 40 and I used to smoke.
Talk to your doctor, family, friends before the baby arrives if you suspect you might be affected. For more information Postpartum Support International is a good resource.