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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



Sudeepta-Varma-MD-Expert

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. www.doctorsuevarma.com

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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May 20, 2021
New Moms may be at Risk for Peripartum Mood Disorders during the COVID Pandemic and Beyond
ABC4

The month of May means a lot of focus on moms and the issues that affect them, and it’s also Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month worldwide. Dr. Denise Lash says these mood changes are different from the baby blues. Baby blues is kind of just a colloquial term that we refer to that mom, most moms about 80% of them will experience after labor and delivery and that’s mainly due to hormone changes and just the lack of sleep and the energy it takes for our body to heal after giving birth and that typically goes from one to two weeks and typically resides on its own. It might start around week four post-delivery.”

May 14, 2021
UPMC expert: Changing the stigma of postpartum depression
Northern Central PA

Mild mood swings may be considered a normal part of pregnancy, but 15 to 20% of women experience more significant depression symptoms before or after giving birth. Changes in environment, relationships, and other major adjustments in life occur during this time, but if feelings of sadness, tearfulness, and being more emotional than usual last more than seven days, you may be developing postpartum depression.  The Fourth Trimester—a pregnant woman’s body does not stop experiencing changes when her third trimester ends.

 May 6, 2021
What Is Postpartum Anxiety?
Very Well Health

Postpartum anxiety is anxiety that occurs after giving birth. It is normal to be stressed and have anxious feelings after having a baby. After all, your life has undergone a huge change in taking on the responsibility of caring for your baby, often on little to no sleep. While some amount of anxiety is completely normal during this period, postpartum anxiety refers to overwhelming anxiety and uncontrollable worry that inhibits your daily functioning.1 With postpartum anxiety, you may experience intrusive thoughts and physical symptoms, and find it difficult to take care of your baby and yourself.