As a new mother, you are prepared for tons of dirty diapers, multiple loads of laundry, middle of the night feedings, and many new responsibilities that come with parenting. But are you prepared for the possibility of depression and anxiety?
Depression and anxiety can occur both during and after pregnancy. This is known as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), which refer to mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, as well as anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorders. These symptoms can interfere with a mother’s emotional wellness, her ability to bond with her infant and her overall functioning.
According to Postpartum Support International, one in seven women will experience a mood or anxiety disorder within the first-year of delivering a baby. The percentage is even greater for women who are dealing with poverty and twice as likely in teen mothers. And although, 15% of women will experience depression and/or anxiety, many do not seek the help that they need. Becoming a new parent can be stressful and there is a normal adjustment to parenting. What many new mothers fail to realize; however, are that these feelings of depression and anxiety are not uncommon; and therefore, new mothers who experience such challenges should not be ashamed.
If you or someone you know is a parent who is struggling, this is what you need to know:
Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth.
- Feeling down or depressed
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Crying and sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Anxiety can be experienced on its own or in addition to depression.
- Constant worry
- Feeling like something bad is going to happen
- Intrusive thoughts, often about harm towards the baby
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances in sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Constant checking on the baby
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, and nausea
Bipolar Mood Disorders
There are two phases of a bipolar mood disorder: the lows and the highs.
- Periods of severely depressed mood and irritability
- Periods of mania where mood is much better than normal
- Rapid speech
- Racing thoughts
- Little need for sleep
- Difficulty concentrating
- Continuous high energy
- Impulsiveness, poor judgment, distractibility
- Grandiosity and paranoia
- Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance
- In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations
Although sensationalized in the media, postpartum psychosis is a rare illness, compared to the rates of postpartum depression or anxiety. It occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries.
- Delusions or strange beliefs
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Not connected to reality
- Feeling very irritated
- Decreased need for sleep
- Paranoia and suspiciousness
- Rapid mood swings
- Difficulty communicating at times
Information from Postpartum Support International
Suicide Prevention Line:
Emergency hotlines are free and anonymous. It is very important that you reach out to find the support and information you need in order to keep you safe. In the event of an emergency, always call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room.
For more information contact Jamie Kreiter, LCSW here.
Postpartum Support International. (2017). Pregnancy & Postpartum Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-postpartum-mental-health/