Six Things Every New Mom & Mom-To-Be Should Know About Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression & Anxiety
(Adapted from postpartumprogress.com)
1. Postpartum depression can and often does happen.
Many people believe that postpartum depression or anxiety is fairly rare. In reality, 15-20% of new moms, or about 1 million women in the US each year, experience these illnesses. It is so common that it is considered the number one complication of childbirth. Should you experience some of the symptoms of these illnesses, you are not alone.
2. Postpartum depression is only one in a spectrum of perinatal mental illnesses.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders include antepartum depression, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis and postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder. One size does not fit all – there are all kinds of symptoms you may (or may not) experience in the period during pregnancy and after birth. These include:
- Mood swings
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Difficulty concentrating
- Irritation or anger (with yourself and/or those around you)
- Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy / loss of pleasure
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Excessive worry about your baby
- Lack of interest in your baby
- Negative feelings toward your baby
- Feeling like you should never have become a mother or that you won’t be able to do it
- Worry about hurting your baby
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Disturbing thoughts about harming yourself / death
- Racing thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Headaches and/or stomach problems
- Delusions or hallucinations
3. Symptoms can appear anytime during pregnancy
and the entire first year after birth.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can occur during pregnancy, as well as any time in the 12 months after having your baby. Baby blues, a normal adjustment period after birth, normally lasts 2-3 weeks postpartum. If you have some of the symptoms listed above, they have stayed the same or gotten worse, and you’re 5 to 6 weeks postpartum, you are no longer experiencing just baby blues.
4. You didn’t do anything to cause this.
You are not defective, or weak, or a bad person. While we don’t know the exact cause of these illnesses yet, research shows there are a wide variety of risk factors, from your family’s medical history, including your or your family’s history of depression or anxiety, to how your body processes certain hormones, to the level of stress you’re experiencing now or did in the past, to how much support you have to help you care for your baby. What we do know is that this is not your fault. Don’t beat yourself up for getting a common and treatable illness.
5. The sooner you get treatment the better.
Many recent studies show that both the physical and emotional health of women who go untreated, and their children, are negatively impacted over the long term. You deserve to be healthy, and your child needs a healthy mom. There is no reason to delay reaching out for help.
6. There is no need to go it alone.
Everyone needs help sometimes. It just happens to be your turn. There are plenty of healthcare professionals who know all about these illnesses and how to help you recover. Nothing you say about what you’re feeling and thinking should surprise them.
If you feel that you may be suffering a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, we hope this list serves as a little light at the end of the tunnel. What you’re going through is temporary and treatable. With professional help, your joy can be restored. If you would like to know more about postpartum depression or anxiety, feel free to talk to your doctor and talk about your treatment options.