Perinatal Mood Disorders—Recognizing and Treating Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
June 01, 2020
By Melissa Shane, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Healing Hearts Counseling
Maternal anxiety and depression are the leading complications of pregnancy. Following birth, a woman’s hormones shift more rapidly than at any other time in her life. As a result, it is normal to feel the “baby blues,” or “hormonal,” right after delivering a baby. But, this feeling should pass by about the second or third week after delivery. One in seven mothers will develop a more serious condition collectively known as perinatal mood disorders or PMADS. The most common presentation is postpartum depression and anxiety.
How do we tell the difference between the normal “baby blues,” that many new mothers experience, from postpartum depression? With postpartum depression, a new mom cries more than normal, often for no reason. She reports feeling sad and hopeless. She may also report feeling numb, or “not feeling anything.” She is overwhelmed, has difficulty concentrating, often has a poor appetite, and can feel worthless, angry, anxious, and guilty. She is not sleeping and is fatigued. You will hear her say, “I am just not myself.” She will complain of more headaches, stomachs, and back pain. This is different than just feeling weepy and emotional. “Baby blues” only last a couple of weeks, at best, and it certainly does not significantly impact day to functioning.
Women who suffer with postpartum anxiety often report feeling like they are “bad mothers.” Postpartum anxiety involves chronic and excessive worry. These women will often google their symptoms or fears (worries), and will frequently call their primary care provider, nurse midwife, or obstetrician, inquiring about symptoms they believe “baby” is experiencing. These Moms report fears that they are “going crazy, losing control, or feeling as if they may die.” Women with postpartum anxiety show greater rates of agitation, irritability, and trouble sitting still. When you talk to her or see her, she will say she is struggling to sleep. She appears fidgety and restless and can even wring her hands. She will complain of being constantly tired.
It is recommended that women be screened at least once by their medical provider during pregnancy and also after birth. Mental health counselors trained in perinatal mood disorders can offer cognitive behavioral therapy, education, support, and insight to aid recovery and help new mothers adjust. Here are ways to combat perinatal mood disorders:
- Offer to help new parents with watching baby, running errands, or bringing a meal. If you are a new parent, let people help you when they offer.
- Allow yourself to be human. Dirty laundry and houses will not be the end of the world. Sleep and self-care come first. Sleep when baby sleeps.
- Lean on social support networks. Get out of the house when you are able. You can enroll in an infant massage class where you bring baby. Or, you can join outings or support groups with other new moms.
- Exercise every day. Take a walk outside or do yoga poses at home. Every little bit helps. Exercise can be a powerful way to improve your mood and boost your spirits.
- Talk to your medical provider about any symptoms you are experiencing. Ask for a screening. If needed, ask for a referral to counselors who are trained and have experience in working with perinatal mood disorders.
For more information and support contact Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net. The helpline number is 1-800-944-4773. You can also text for help to 503-894-9453. Please note this helpline should not be used in emergencies. If you are in crisis go to your local emergency room or call 1-800-273 TALK (suicide prevention hotline).
We are located at 6919 N Knoxville Ave, Suites 100, 201 and 202, Peoria, Illinois 61614. You can schedule an appointment by phone at 309.966.0068 or schedule online by going to www.therapyportal.com/p/healinghearts61614.
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