Many women experience depression before, during, or after childbirth, and while the symptoms are unique, they all add up to one conclusion. If left unchecked, warning signs from perinatal and postpartum mood disorders can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. Fortunately, many symptoms can be managed before your quality of life is affected.
What is Perinatal or Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a severe kind of depression that can affect any mom during the last trimester of pregnancy or may not happen for a year after a baby is born. It’s estimated to occur in anywhere from one in nine new moms, while another study adjusted the rate to between 10 and 20 percent of moms following childbirth. It doesn’t go away on its own, and symptoms like sadness, anxiety, relationship issues, and many others can have devastating consequences if not treated.
Postpartum Mood Disorders and Symptoms
According to the UNC School of Medicine, Perinatal Mood Disorders are linked to mood and anxiety symptoms that happen during pregnancy or up to a year after a baby is born. These are often referred to as perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). The symptoms most commonly last beyond the expected time frame or two to three weeks after childbirth, worsen over time, and affect the quality of life for the new mom, baby, and those in their orbit.
Suppose you have depression related to pregnancy or childbirth. In that case, it’s essential to know what you’re dealing with so your healthcare provider can make an informed diagnosis and offer a treatment plan for your specific needs.
Depression when you’re pregnant
Depression that happens when you’re pregnant or a year following delivery is called perinatal depression. Some experts believe that mental illness such as depression is one of the most widespread problems during and after pregnancy. Many factors could boost the chance of depression during or after pregnancy, such as a personal or family account of depression or substance misuse, you have a blood relative with mental illness, poor support from family and loved ones, anxiety about the baby before birth, previous problems during pregnancy or childbirth, relationship issues, money problems, or you’re a young mom. Fatigue, trouble sleeping, intense emotional reactions, hormonal changes, and fluctuations in body weight usually happen during and following pregnancy, but these markers could also be symptoms of depression.
If you’re depressed during pregnancy, common symptoms to look for include:
- Sadness, crying a lot, or low moods.
- You’re not interested in becoming a mother.
- Anxiety or tension.
- Low energy.
- Loss of appetite.
New moms may also experience any one of several different types of depression after childbirth.
- Postpartum depression is a serious form of depression after a baby is born that doesn’t go away on its own.
- Postpartum anxiety disorders like panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder seem to happen as often as postpartum depression and even coexist with depression. Suppose you think you have any of these disorders. In that case, you may experience symptoms like panic attacks, hyperventilation, extreme worry, problems sleeping, and recurrent thoughts or mental pictures of frightening things being done to your baby.
- Postpartum Psychosis. This happens when people sometimes hear and see voices or visions that others can’t, called hallucinations. You may believe something that isn’t true and doesn’t trust people around you. You may also experience moments of memory loss and confusion and seem very energetic or happy. If left untreated, this is a severe condition with dangerous consequences, so talk to your healthcare provider immediately if you have any of its symptoms.
- Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder. In one study, more than 13% of new moms reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder after childbirth. This may happen if you’ve had a traumatic birth or previous trauma and experienced memories of the trauma paired with anxiety and a strong urge to avoid something or someone related to what happened.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you have symptoms of depression before, during, or after pregnancy and they last for months or won’t go away on their own, talk to your healthcare provider about diagnosis and treatment options. Besides a regular physical exam, you may also be asked to fill out a mental health questionnaire and undergo testing to determine if there’s an underlying medical cause for your condition. Some conditions and symptoms can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, self-help, psychological counseling, finding a support group, certain medicine, and even ketamine therapy.