For some women, pregnancy can be the most fantastic experience of their life. For others, it can become a lonely and scary experience. Every woman is different, therefore every pregnancy is different. How women feel during pregnancy can be overwhelming, especially if they are already dealing with depression or anxiety. These feelings are not unique, with as many as 1 in 5 women having mental health issues during pregnancy and after birth, according to the American Hospital Association. Women can develop post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, perinatal and postpartum depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, about 75% of these women go untreated. However, educating women and their families about the symptoms and available treatments can help change this statistic.
What is prenatal and postpartum depression?
According to Stanford Medicine’s Center for Neuroscience in Women’s Health, the most common mental health issue that pregnant women face is depression. The two types of depression that can occur during pregnancy are prenatal and postpartum depression.
Prenatal depression refers to depression that begins during pregnancy. Postpartum depression refers to depression that begins after birth. These types of depression can happen to any woman and it is not their fault. Research by the National Institute of Mental Health shows that prenatal and postpartum depression does not have one simple cause. It can be caused by genetic and environmental factors. Additionally, the changes that accompany being a new mother, the changes in hormones and other life stressors can also contribute to the development of prenatal and postpartum depression. If there is a family history of prenatal and postpartum depression, there is a higher chance it will develop. Additionally, if a woman is already diagnosed with a mental health disorder, prenatal and postpartum depression are more likely to develop.
What are the symptoms of postpartum and prenatal depression?
Feeling sad, anxious, angry, or worried is normal for everyone. Pregnancy can make these feelings more intense due to hormonal changes. Depression symptoms last for more than a few days, sometimes weeks or months, and can worsen over time. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these are some symptoms of prenatal and postpartum depression:
- Anxiety, excessive worrying and irrational thoughts.
- Changes in appetite and weight loss or gain not related to the pregnancy.
- Decreased interest in activities you once enjoyed, withdrawing from friends, family and social interactions.
- Fatigue, sleeping more than usual or insomnia.
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, numbness or excessive guilt.
- Physical symptoms that do not relate to previous health issues such as gastrointestinal issues, headaches or muscle aches.
- Problems concentrating, remembering things, reasoning or making decisions.
How do you treat prenatal and postpartum depression?
Treatment for prenatal and postpartum depression is incredibly important for the mother and infant. There are many different kinds of treatment through medication and therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy that teaches people new ways of thinking, behaving and reacting to situations. Interpersonal therapy is an evidence-based therapy that is based on the idea that interpersonal events influence one’s mood and vice versa. The goal of interpersonal therapy is to improve communication between the patient and the people in their lives. It is up to the individual to decide what kind of therapy would be best for their situation.