You’re probably familiar with the term postpartum depression, which affects women following childbirth. But, the term perinatal depression encompasses both postpartum depression and depression that occurs during pregnancy (also known as prenatal depression).
Research suggests that perinatal depression—which can affect any mother regardless of age, race, income, culture or education—is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some of the more common symptoms that occur with perinatal depression include:
- Feeling sad, anxious or “empty”
- Feeling guilty, worthless, hopeless or helpless
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Poor concentration or difficulty remembering or making decisions
- Changes in sleep and/or appetite
- Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the new baby
- Thoughts about death, suicide, or harming oneself or the baby. (If you’re having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255)
According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers believe that depression is one of the most common perinatal issues that women experience. Effective treatment is available and can include therapy, medication or a combination of the two. Some mothers are hesitant to take medication while pregnant or breastfeeding due to fear about effects on the baby. This caution is certainly understandable. However, it’s important to recognize that depression itself can cause harm to mother and baby. Doctors will likely work with mothers to weigh the risk versus benefit of taking a medication during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
In addition to seeking professional help, moms experiencing perinatal depression can also:
- Keep in contact with other moms: Postpartum Support International can help you find local moms’ groups in your area and Postpartum Progress offers an online support community.
- Become willing to accept help: Especially in the days and weeks after giving birth, caring for a newborn can feel overwhelming. If friends or family are willing to help in any way, take advantage of the opportunity to get some rest or do something enjoyable.
- Have realistic expectations: Being entirely responsible for the well-being of another human is a full-time job. Sometimes, the dishes or laundry might not get done and other tasks might have to take a backseat. Accepting that everything doesn’t have to be perfect can help reduce stress.
- Remember self-care: With so much focus on caring for a little one, it can be easy to forget about caring for ourselves, but practicing self-care can actually improve the ability to be present and attentive as a mom.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression, the expert treatment professionals at Travco Behavioral Health can help. Contact us today!