Pregnancy can be a time of hormonal shifts. It can also be a time for some women when they feel scared, sad and not in control of their lives. Depression is a mood disorder that affects one in four women at some point in their lives, so it should be no surprise that this would also occur during pregnancy. Experiencing several of the following symptoms for two weeks or more may indicate the presence of depression during pregnancy.
- persistent sadness
- difficulty concentrating
- changes in sleeping and/or eating
- loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness
- possible suicidal thoughts
Untreated depression during pregnancy can be harmful to the pregnant woman and her baby. These risks can include poor prenatal care, poor weight gain, preeclampsia, or use of alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
Up to 80% of new mothers experience a brief episode of the Baby Blues. These symptoms often resolve within two to three weeks and don’t usually require professional treatment. It is estimated that 10-20% of new mothers experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder, a term used to describe a wide range of emotional disorders after the birth of a baby. These symptoms can have a tremendous impact pm the well being of the mother and her ability to bond with and care for her baby. Symptoms are similar to those of the baby blues, but are more persistent (lasting throughout the day beyond two weeks). Symptoms usually occur soon after delivery, but can appear up to anytime one year after.
Click here to learn more about the symptoms of Postpartum Mood Disorder. Research is emerging around symptoms of postpartum mood disorder in fathers, and adoptive parents as well.
Postpartum Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
These conditions can occur in the postpartum period and may include serious anxiety, obsessions and/or compulsive behaviors around the new baby and it’s health or safety.
This is a severe but extremely rare condition (1 or 2 in 1,000) characterized by a loss of reality, delusions, hallucinations and rapid mood swings and/or thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s baby. Postpartum Psychosis is a serious emergency and requires immediate attention and help. If you or someone you know may be experiencing these symptoms, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.
Caring for the New Mother
While many diverse cultures have given women ample time, nurturing and encouragement as they grow into the role of new mother, women in 1990’s America are often expected to make this transition almost instantly, and largely without much recognition or support…
Basically, your needs as a new mother would seem simple to define:
~ rest so you can heal;
~ gentle education and reassurance as you gain confidence in your mothering skills;
~ nourishing food and drink for yourself;
~ a relinquishing of practical chores to someone else so you can withdraw into yourself and your baby;
~ knowledge about what is going on with your body and spirit; some realistic images and guideposts about the range of feelings other women have experienced postpartum;
~a place to ‘debrief’ and talk about the birth itself and your emotions; and most especially, some mothering for yourself, so you can feel protected, honored and continually replenished at a time when many women say they feel as if they have been forgotten, peripheral, or ‘running on empty’.”
Mothering the New Mother (1994). Placksin, S. New Market Press, NY
For Westchester Area Mothers
For many postpartum women, traveling to see a therapist for support is just too difficult. This unique service allows us to reach out and provide a bridge connecting the support of the maternity unit to the client’s home and family.
A Bridge Home in White Plains, NY, offers up to three IN-HOME psychotherapy consultations, helping to transition mom and baby to a longer term supportive office based therapy with one of our experienced clinicians.