What is perinatal depression? Understanding perinatal depression and how it happens is important for many new or soon-to-be parents. Often, people experience this form of depression and are unaware that it is a common experience. It can ease worry to understand this form of distressing depression.
Perinatal depression is a form of depression that can occur during pregnancy as well as after a woman gives birth. Symptoms can start before the baby is born and can last as long as a year into the child’s life. Many women who experience this, notice the symptoms the most right after the baby is born.
There are many causes of perinatal depression. Many of which are pre-existing factors that are particular to the individual. Stress, trauma and the current state of mental/emotional health are a few of the common causes behind perinatal depression.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Perinatal Distress?
Perinatal distress is a general term used to describe the symptoms of depression and anxiety (and any other form of distress) a woman can experience during the whole duration of her pregnancy. Perinatal distress could be caused by the stress and fear of the unknown, the shock and potential anxiety of not feeling ready to be a parent, or any other external/internal factor.
Why is Perinatal Mental Health Important?
Perinatal mental health is important because brining a child into the world is a huge deal. The mother needs to feel supported for everything she has gone through during pregnancy and everything that she’ll experience following labor. Her body has gone through so much. She will experience massive changes as her body heals post partum.
What is Major Depression with Perinatal Onset?
Major depression with perinatal onset is major depression that is triggered by perinatal depression. Many women who experience perinatal depression may not have prior experience with depression. Perinatal depression could develop and then major depression may continue as a result.
Often, perinatal does not last very long if experienced. If you seem to have symptoms of depression that linger, seek therapy and talk to your doctor about your treatment options.
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What are Perinatal Problems?
Perinatal problems include feeling incapable of caring for the new baby, hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm. In some cases, thoughts of harming the baby might occur even if the new mother does not want to cause any harm.
In some cases, perinatal OCD and PTSD can be experienced as well. Either of these can occur due to the amount of stress, distress and anxiety one might feel right before the child is born. In some cases, perinatal mental health problems can occur postpartum as a result of a traumatic labor experience.
What are the Symptoms of Perinatal Mental Health Issues?
The symptoms of perinatal mental health issues include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Excessive crying
- Panic Attacks (To eliminate the root of your anxiety and panic attacks, check out Panic Away. It’s a program designed to do just that!)
- Mood swings
- Fatigue due to emotional stress
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of depression and/or hopelessness
What is Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is when a new mother experiences mental health symptoms that are more extreme than the typical perinatal depression experience. If psychosis is experienced, it usually starts shortly after the new baby is born.
The mother could experience hallucinations, delusions, panic, paranoia, confusion and feeling an overall sense of being out of control. While it’s often typical to think you hear a crying baby as a new, exhausted, parent, hallucinations in this scenario are far more serious than that.
Symptoms of Perinatal Depression
Symptoms of perinatal depression vary depending on the individual circumstance. Some mothers experience the inability to bond with their baby or worrying about whether or not they’re a good parent in ways that cause them to slip into depression.
In some instances, thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby have been seen in addition to what is typically seen with depression. Here is a list of the most commonly seen symptoms.
- Overeating or lack of appetite
- Weight gain or loss
- Feeling worthless and in despair
- Crying all the time
- Not wanting to be around friends/family
- Experiencing anxiety and/or panic attacks
- Inability to focus, make decisions or think clearly
- Not wanting to bond with your baby
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Typical Causes of Perinatal Depression?
Causes of perinatal depression are similar to those of any other form of depression with the exception of onset of stress due to having a child (fear/anxiety) and potentially the lack of support from family and friends.
Other typical causes include (but are not limited to) trauma, past sexual or physical abuse, smoking, chronic stress, poor lifestyle, a complicated pregnancy.
A good way to significantly reduce the chance of experiencing perinatal depression is to be aware of any trauma, anxiety or depression symptoms that you might already have. Seeking proper treatment and implementing a healthy lifestyle will not only ensure that you are at low risk for having perinatal depression, but it will also clear up any issues that you’ve been struggling with.
If you have never experienced therapy and have gone through any sort of trauma in the past, seeking help before starting a family (if circumstances allow) can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing perinatal depression.