Prenatal and Postpartum Depression
The reality of motherhood can be very different than the ‘Disneyland version’ we’re presented with. Pregnancy glow? Angelic baby dozing in the cradle? Motherhood is supposed to be amazing, one of the happiest times in a woman’s life. For many women, this new role is anything but wonderful.
Many new moms are familiar with the term ‘baby blues’. Research shows that about 80% will experience mood swings in the first few weeks after giving birth. These are completely normal feelings and responses and will usually pass in a week or two without treatment. For other women, more significant symptoms will develop. According to Postpartum Support International, 15-20% of women will develop depression, anxiety, panic or some other form of psychiatric illness during pregnancy or following childbirth (that is roughly 1 in 8 women!).
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is the term most often used to describe postpartum emotional distress. Let’s think of PPD as an ‘umbrella term’ used to cover a variety of emotional issues. There are actually several forms of illness, other than depression, one may suffer from during the prenatal and postpartum period: Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Bipolar Disorder, Posttraumatic stress or Postpartum Psychosis. One woman may experience mostly anxiety-related symptoms while another intense sadness. All of these conditions are very treatable.
Unfortunately no one is immune. Every culture, race, class, religion, age, education and income level can be affected. Onset is usually gradual (can be rapid) and can occur anytime during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after childbirth. There is no single cause, we tend to see a combination of biological, psychological and social stressors. Prenatal depression is actually one of the most common complications of pregnancy, more common than gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery.
Prenatal and postpartum mood disorders are very real. It’s estimated that up to 50% of cases still go undetected. Why? Too often we’re afraid of being seen as complaining, being unable to handle the demands of motherhood. We’re afraid, embarrassed and ashamed to talk. We blame ourselves and feel like failures, the “bad mother”. Many women are left untreated, suffering in silence. There are many misperceptions, inaccurate beliefs, and a general lack of information. We need to increase awareness and give women a voice.
PPD has been getting more attention, we’re moving in the right direction. PPD is an illness, not a weakness. Seeking help is courageous. Over the next few weeks we’ll talk about symptoms – what is normal “new mom stuff” vs. more significant symptoms, risk factors, treatment options, prevention, and helpful resources.
Read more about Dr. Chantal Kendall under the Contributors Page