Bringing a new life into the world can be a joyous event for everyone involved. Sometimes, however, it can lead to significant emotional and mental changes for a new mother that make daily life difficult.
Although celebrities like Serena Williams and Chrissy Teigen have recently brought peripartum mood disorders into the public eye, most people still don’t know a lot about them.
Q What are peripartum mood disorders?
A People who are pregnant or have recently delivered a baby can experience a broad range of psychiatric effects, including depression, anxiety and — more rarely — psychosis. These are all peripartum mood disorders.
Postpartum depression is the most prominently known, but it’s often so publically stigmatized to consider it a mental health condition that many who discuss it will drop the “depression” portion and simply call it “postpartum” or “the baby blues.”
Peripartum mood disorders are NOT a sign that you don’t love your baby or that you’re bad at parenting.
Q How common are they?
A The American Psychological Association estimates that 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression.
Because symptoms are underreported, however, it’s difficult to quantify the true incidence of all peripartum mood disorders.
Q What are the symptoms?
A Symptoms may include:
- Loss of interest/pleasure in previously enjoyable activities
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Racing or obsessive thoughts
- Extreme irritability
- Uncontrollable crying
- Rapid mood swings
- Constant worry
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate
- Fear of failing as a parent
- Thoughts of harm to one’s self, baby or others.
Although a majority of people in the postpartum period will experience some of these symptoms to a subtle degree due to normal changes — such as hormone fluctuations, lack of a normal sleep schedule and the increased stress of caring for an infant — the severity, number and impact of these symptoms are important to consider.
Q What is the treatment for these conditions?
A The first step in solving any problem is acknowledging it. The first level of care is often focused on lifestyle interventions — such as ensuring attempts at healthy eating, exercise, adequate sleep and acquiring help from friends/family support systems.
Sometimes these simple actions aren’t sufficient or even possible, however. Your health-care provider may refer you to a therapist specializing in peripartum mood disorders, of which there are many throughout the Twin Cities area.
It can do wonders to have an unbiased resource to whom you can vent, cry and talk things out — in whatever way works best for you. Some mothers do require medications in the short- or long-term to fully manage symptoms.
Make sure to talk to your health-care provider if you experience symptoms like those listed above during your pregnancy or in the postpartum period. Call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately if you’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or others.
Dr. Erin Stevens sees patients at the Edina location of Clinic Sofia, a leading OBGYN clinic known for its personalized approach to women’s health care. She is a member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Learn more at clinicsofia.com.