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Perinatal Mental Health

Mental Health and Pregnancy 

Is it baby blues or something more? New parents can experience mental health challenges during and after pregnancy. Common concerns during this time include baby blues, perinatal depression, perinatal anxiety, postpartum OCD, and postpartum PTSD. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every year more than 400,000 babies are born to mothers who have depression, which makes perinatal depression the most under diagnosed obstetric complication in America. 

When to Get Help for Your Perinatal Mental Health Symptoms

Baby Blues and general discomfort are normal while adjusting to life with a newborn. Some parents will experience more significant mental health challenges and benefit from additional support.

Call your doctor, nurse, midwife, or pediatrician if you or your partner’s symptoms don’t subside after 2 weeks or if you notice any signs or symptoms of these conditions. Your medical provider can screen for these and other concerns and can refer you to a mental health professional for treatment, if necessary.

Call 911 if there is imminent risk to one's self or infant. 

Baby Blues

Around 60-80% of new parents (4 out of 5) experience Baby Blues following the birth of a new baby. Symptoms usually present 2 days postpartum, peak between 3-5 days after delivery and can last up to 2 weeks.

Symptoms can result from several factors including hormonal changes, stress, sleep deprivation, and relationship adjustments. Parents with a history of depression are at an increased risk. Typically, these symptoms go away on their own and don’t require treatment.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Anxiety and/or sadness
  • Mood swings
  • Frustration and/or irritability
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Feeling grumpy
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling hopeless

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Crying
  • Fidgeting
  • Difficulty making decision
  • Isolating from others
  • Feeling impatient
  • Difficulty concentrating

Physical Symptoms

  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue

Perinatal Depression (formerly Postpartum Depression)

Perinatal Depression affects about 15% of women (1 out of 7) and usually develops within the first 1-3 weeks after a new baby is born. Symptoms can begin during pregnancy and can last up to a year postpartum. At first, symptoms resemble Baby Blues but persist longer than 2 weeks postpartum and tend to spike 3-6 months postpartum. Perinatal depression also affects 10% of fathers within the first postpartum year.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Sadness and/or depression
  • Feeling empty and/or hopeless
  • Decreased interest in activities
  • Severe anxiety and/or worry
  • Emotional distress
  • Frustration and/or irritability
  • Feeling bad about yourself
  • Feeling worthless and/or guilty
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Thoughts of harming your baby

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Frequent crying
  • Moving or speaking slowly
  • Fidgeting and/or restlessness
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Difficulty socializing
  • Difficulty caring for your baby

Physical Symptoms

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping too much
  • Low energy
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Panic attacks

Perinatal Anxiety

Perinatal Anxiety affects about 16% of pregnant women and 8-20% of postpartum women and can present alone or alongside depression. During the prenatal period, fathers also experience anxiety ranging from 4-16% (up to 1 in 6). Postnatally, 2-18% (up to 1 in 6) of fathers experience anxiety.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Severe anxiety and/or worry
  • Racing thoughts
  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Feeling nervous and/or on edge
  • Irritability
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Feeling afraid
  • Feelings of dread

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Asking for constant reassurance
  • Checking things repeatedly
  • Being extra careful or vigilant
  • Being overly controlling
  • Forgetfulness
  • Fidgeting and/or restlessness
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Avoiding activities or situations
  • Avoiding other people

Physical Symptoms

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle tension
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint and/or lightheaded
  • Increased heart rate
  • Upset stomach
  • Excessive sweating
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Shallow breathing
  • Chest or throat tightness
  • Loss of appetite

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Roughly 3-5% of women (1 out of 20) experience a specific type of Perinatal Anxiety called Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The hallmark symptom of Postpartum OCD involves intrusive, upsetting, persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby.

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Approximately 3-16% of women experience PTSD following childbirth. This often results from trauma during delivery such as prolapsed cord, unplanned c-section, use of vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery, newborn admitted to the NICU, injury related to childbirth, and feelings of powerlessness. Symptoms can include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and anxiety related to the traumatic event. Approximately 45% of women report their births were traumatic, however, not all will develop symptoms to meet clinical criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.

Reach out to your provider or our Behavioral Health team if you or a loved one needs help.