Having a baby, for many women, is a dream come true. For some that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare when instead of feeling happy and excited for their new bundle of joy, they feel dread, anxiety and sadness.
For years medical experts mistakenly thought that pregnancy hormones protected women against depression and often disregarded early signs of risk such as exhaustion, anger or loss of appetite as normal pre and post-natal symptoms.
In the US nationally 7-20% of pregnant women are affected by Perinatal Depression, referring to depression and anxiety in pregnancy, around childbirth or within the first year postpartum.
The Family Health Outcomes Project, University of California San Francisco reports that while most women experience some mood differences during pregnancy and after, a perinatal mood disorder develops when a woman experiences persistent sadness, anxiety and depression for a longer duration.
Quick identification and treatment is critical for the health and wellness of both the mother and child. Left untreated, the depression and anxiety can last for years and directly impact the ability for the mother to form an emotional bond with her child. Five percent of these untreated mothers will die by suicide.
Here in San Francisco, California at Pacific Gynecology & Obstetrics Medical group, obstetricians have brought perinatal psychotherapists into their practice. Combining mental health and physical wellness allows for earlier identification of perinatal depression both during and after pregnancy, which will lead to earlier intervention and treatment before a crisis can occur.
Since it can be hard to differentiate “Baby Blues” from something more serious, here is a list of common Perinatal Depression symptoms:
• Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
• Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
• Worrying or feeling overly anxious
• Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
• Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
• Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
• Experiencing anger or rage
• Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
• Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
• Eating too little or too much
• Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
• Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
• Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
• Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.
• Call your doctor.
• Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
• Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).