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Help With Peripartum Depression (formerly Postpartum)

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Depression During Pregnancy and after Childbirth

For most women, having a baby is a very exciting, joyous, and often anxious time. But for women with peripartum, (formerly postpartum), depression it can become very distressing and difficult. Peripartum depression refers to depression occurring during pregnancy or after childbirth. The use of the term peripartum recognizes that depression associated with having a baby often begins during pregnancy.

Peripartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite. It carries risks for the mother and child. An estimated on ein seven women experiences peripartum depression.

Pregnancy and the period after delivery can be a particularly vulnerable time for women. Mothers often experience immense biological, emotional, financial, and social changes during this time. Some women can be at an increased risk for developing mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety.

Read more on symptoms & treatment

  • Mar 04, 2019
New Recommendations May Help Prevent Depression in New Mothers

Perinatal depression refers to depression that occurs during pregnancy or following childbirth. It affects more than one in nine new mothers and can be harmful not only for the mother, but also for the infant. Despite media attention and celebrities sharing about their experiences with peripartum depression, it very often goes unrecognized and untreated.

  • Feb 06, 2018
Social Interventions for Depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions and is the leading cause of disease burden worldwide. Older, isolated adults who have little regular social interaction may be particularly at risk. Researchers in Canada wanted to look at whether interventions that aim to facilitate interaction and connection among individuals could reduce depression.

  • Dec 12, 2017
Online Mental Health Screenings: A Potential First Step

Several organizations provide brief online screenings for depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions. More than one million people took screenings through the Mental Health America site alone in 2016.

My sister had a baby a couple of weeks ago and I can see she’s not herself and is hurting. I don't want to offend her by suggesting she get help, how can I help her?

When someone we love is suffering, it's natural to want to give advice. And at the same time, we may fear that our unsolicited advice will put them on the defense. However, given that the risks for untreated peripartum depression are so great (including preterm birth and social, emotional, and cognitive deficits in the baby years later, and the risk of suicide in a small number of new moms with peripartum mood disorders) it is crucial our loved one receive timely support. Some thoughts on how to help your sister: offer to spend time with her, let her take naps, join her for a walk, allow her to engage in self-care in the way she finds most effective (such as taking a shower, eating a meal in silence or with a friend or partner, or getting out of the house for a manicure or haircut).  More

Is it possible for a new father to experience peripartum depression?

Absolutely. A new baby is an immense joy as well as a lot of work! It can be a stressor for the entire family. About 4 percent of fathers will experience symptoms of postpartum depression. New fathers with a personal or family history of depression, those feeling unprepared and those dealing with unemployment/ financial difficulties may be at greater risk. Struggling with work-life balance, difficulties with communication and division of labor in the family can all exacerbate the transition into fatherhood.

I am pregnant and have been diagnosed with peripartum depression. In addition to the psychotherapy my doctor recommended, what can I do for myself to keep me and my baby healthy?

Get as much support as possible, for example look for a new moms’ group or even the second or third time moms’ groups through your local hospital. Try to line up several reliable family members or friends to help or get hired help. Plan as much in advance as possible, take shifts, make selfcare a priority. Spend 15 minutes a day checking in with your partner about non-baby related issues. The basics are key—eating well, sleep, and exercise within reason.  More

I’m concerned that a friend of mine, a new mother, is depressed. Being a new mother is tiring and stressful, but what signs or symptoms might raise a concern and mean it’s time to ask for help?

Some warning signs include not sleeping when the baby sleeps, constantly feeling overwhelmed, being unable to find joy and pleasure in anything, crying much of the time and feeling hopeless or helpless. She may think there is no end in sight. A new mom may feel regretful about having a baby or feel that she is incapable of taking care of herself or the baby. A new mom may often feel anxious and may become preoccupied with the baby getting germs or being harmed. These may also be symptoms of obsessive-compulsive behavior as well, which may occur in the perinatal period alongside symptoms of depression. In severe cases, a woman may even have thoughts of hurting herself or even the baby. If you see concerning signs, encourage her to seek help from a mental health professional. .   More


About the Expert

Sudeepta Varma, M.D., PC, DFAPA, is a board certified psychiatrist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center and a frequent media contributor.

Patient Stories

Maya is a 32-year-old fit, vibrant lawyer. She had been married for more than two years and was expecting her first child, a baby boy. She had a history of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

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OCT 1 2020

Nikki Bella opens up about her struggle with postpartum depression
Everett Post

Nikki Bella welcomed a little boy alongside fiancé Artem Chigvintsev of Dancing with the Stars fame two months ago.  While Matteo brought so much joy to the couple, the Total Bellas star revealed that she struggled with postpartum depression. On the new The Bellas Podcast episode that aired Wednesday, she and sister Brie Bella discussed the “baby blues” that moms experience after birth.

SEPT 16, 2020

Maren Morris is "back to normal" after battling postpartum depression.

Tulsa World

The 30-year-old country singer had been struggling with her mental health in the five months since her son Hayes was born, but she has now said that thanks to some "phone therapy", she's "coming through the tunnel." And although she's been struggling with her mental health, Maren couldn't be happier with her life as a parent, because her son is a "magical human" who has been a "good distraction" from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

SEPT 29 2020

Research shows rates of postpartum anxiety and depression increasing during COVID-19

Global News

Data out of the University of Calgary suggests more new mothers are struggling with postpartum anxiety and depression in the first three months after giving birth than prior to the pandemic. Researchers are tracking 8,000 pregnant women from every Canadian province and territory to determine how COVID-19 is affecting their mental health.