May is Maternal Mental Health Month and May 3rd to May 7th is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. We want to take this time to raise awareness and talk about this very important issue.
There are many changes that happen during and after pregnancy—and it’s not only physical ones. Although having a baby can be a happy time for a lot of people, it can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for others. Watching your body go through so many changes, taking time off from work or school to care for your baby, and trying to find time for yourself can be a lot to handle. Feeling too much stress and anxiety is a risk factor for mental health conditions, such as depression, and can make it hard for you to take care of yourself and your baby.
How common are mental health issues during and after pregnancy?
Although we mostly hear and read about postpartum depression (PPD), there are many different types of mental health conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and in the 12 months after having a baby.
According to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, mental health issues are among the leading complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Each year, about 1 in 5 women in the United States is affected by a mental health condition during pregnancy or in the first year after having a baby. They include:
- Depression. Also called depressive disorder, major depression and clinical depression. This medical condition causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things you like to do.
- Anxiety. People with anxiety can have feelings of fear, worry, or being restless.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Also called OCD, this type of mental health condition can cause repetitive or obsessive thoughts and doing things over and over.
- Baby blues. These are feelings of sadness that can be felt in the first few days after having a baby. Baby blues are also called postpartum blues. About 4 in 5 new moms (80 percent) have baby blues.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder. Also called PTSD, this condition is a severe form of anxiety. PTSD may happen when you go through something shocking, scary or dangerous, such as surviving a pregnancy-related death (called a maternal near-miss or severe maternal morbidity).
How are mental health conditions during pregnancy treated?
It depends on the type of mental health condition. Treatment can include:
- Support groups
- Medicine, such as anti-depressants
- A combination of counseling and medicine
It’s best if a team of providers treats your mental health condition during pregnancy. They can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. If you’re pregnant and already taking a medicine for a mental health condition, tell your provider right away. Don’t stop taking it without talking to your provider first.
Opening up about your feelings may be hard, but it’s an important step in helping you feel better. Mental health affects all aspects of your and your family’s health and well-being.If you think you have depression, PPD or any other mental health condition, tell your health care team right away.
For more information visit marchofdimes.org/depression
Postpartum Support International, 1-800-944-4773
Maternal Mental Health Alliance