Many moms suffer from this common condition, so how can you tell when it’s more serious?
Having a baby is the best thing that could ever happen to you, right? You’ve looked forward to meeting your little one for so long and now the time is finally here! Babies are so cute, what’s not to love? The nursery is gleaming, the drawers filled with fresh, new clothes, so why is your precious bundle not quite bringing you the promised joy you were expecting?
If new motherhood hasn’t turned out to be quite what you expected, don’t worry you’re not alone. 60-80% of moms experience the baby blues after giving birth. The baby blues are mild and include tearfulness, feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, tiredness and shifts in mood. They occur within the first three days of childbirth and can continue for up to two weeks. The baby blues generally improve within two to three weeks after giving birth and moms have periods of time where they feel like themselves.
But 15-20% of moms experience significant symptoms of depression or anxiety occurring during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. Mood Disorders during pregnancy and postpartum are referred to as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS). This includes perinatal depression, perinatal panic disorder, perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder, perinatal post traumatic stress disorder, perinatal bipolar disorders and postpartum psychosis.
Perinatal depression is the most common complication to childbirth and remains underdiagnosed. Symptoms of perinatal depression look different for everyone but may include, irritability, sadness, anxiety, crying, lack of interest in the baby, sleep disturbances, guilt, shame, feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest, joy or pleasure, feeling overwhelmed, feeling isolated, appetite changes, and possible thoughts of harming the baby or herself. Symptoms can occur anytime during pregnancy or up to 12 months after birth.
Dr. Monica Schmitt, Psy.D, PMH-C, is a licensed clinical psychologist who is perinatal mental health certified by Postpartum Support International. Dr. Schmitt is working to educate the public and medical professionals about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. The good news is it is not only becoming more widely known but Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are treatable. Mothers, partners and their families do not need to suffer.
Dr. Schmitt says that moms may hide or downplay their symptoms. If they attend post-natal appointments well dressed with makeup on and gleaming hair it may disguise the fact that they are struggling. The important thing is that if you are suffering or if you don’t feel like yourself, please tell a loved one and a medical professional. Treatment is available. You can feel like yourself again.
The condition doesn’t only effect moms. One in 10 new dads, who are sometimes overlooked when a new baby comes into the home, can suffer too.
There’s no way of knowing if or which parents will suffer but certain risk factors mean some will be more susceptible. Some may suffer after the birth of their first child but not others. Some may be fine after the first birth but struggle with subsequent children. Anyone can be affected. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders do not discriminate between culture, age, race and income level.
Risk factors include a history of depression, anxiety, or previous episode of postpartum depression, inadequate support, marital stress, complications in pregnancy or childbirth, financial stress, and other major life time events that may occur around the same time as the birth. Parents of NICU babies or those who have experienced infertility problems are also more likely to experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders.
If you suspect you or a loved one is suffering, please take action:
- Call a healthcare provider (Obstetrician/gynecologist, pediatrician, primary care doctor) and tell the provider what you are experiencing. If they minimize what you are experiencing consult another provider.
- Call a therapist who specializes in treating pregnant and postpartum women.
- Contact Postpartum Support International for resources and information. www.postpartum.net