May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Though we don't often hear a lot about mental health during pregnancy and the early postpartum period, perinatal mental health issues (including postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood and thought disorders) are considered the most common complication of childbirth. Up to 20% of new moms will experience a significant mental health issue during pregnancy or in the first year postpartum. In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, and all the moms and families out there who have experienced perinatal mental health issues, here is some information that could help you, or someone you know.
- Mental health issues don't always start after baby is born. Many women first experience mental health issues during pregnancy. Moms with a history of mental health issues are more likely to experience a perinatal mood disorder, but even moms with no history are at increased risk during the childbearing year.
- Postpartum Depression is not the only mood disorder affecting new moms. While up to 15% of new moms experience postpartum depression, 6-10% experience pregnancy and postpartum anxiety disorders, and some moms experience postpartum OCD, PTSD, or bipolar mood disorders. Postpartum anxiety can look very different from postpartum depression. Instead of exhibiting low mood or sadness, moms with anxiety may seem very alert, worried, and panicked.
- Postpartum psychosis, a rare, but very serious illness, affects less than 1% of new moms. Despite what you may see on TV, postpartum psychosis, in which moms experience delusions or hallucinations, is very rare. It is however, always an emergency if a mom is experiencing these symptoms and immediate treatment is important.
- There are a wide variety of treatment options that can help mood and anxiety disorders get better. For some women increased self-care and social support may be enough to see a reduction in symptoms. For others talk therapy may be the best option. Some women may to use medication to see a reduction of symptoms. Luckily, there are many safe medication options for women who may be breastfeeding.
- Postpartum mood disorders don't only affect new moms. Having a baby is an important adjustment for everyone in the family. It is estimated that up to 10% of new dads may experience postpartum mood or anxiety disorders as well. It is important that anyone experiencing symptoms for more than two weeks gets help, since it won't just go away on its own.
- Some great online resources to learn more or to find help:
- Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net
- Postpartum Progress: www.postpartumprogress.com