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Postpartum Depression

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Perinatal Mood Disorders

The term "perinatal" generally refers to the period of pregnancy and the first year after a baby is born. Mood disorders that can affect mothers during pregnancy and postpartum include the following:

Depression

It is natural for women to experience changes in their feelings and mood during pregnancy, including feeling more tired, irritable or worried. However, while mild mood changes during pregnancy are common, mood symptoms can sometimes become severe enough to require treatment by a health care provider. Approximately 10% of women experience depression prenatally and 15% experience depression following childbirth. Depression is not your fault! It is caused by a dramatic change in hormone levels which you cannot control. Emotional factors and lifestyle influences can also contribute. If feelings of depression persist for more than a couple of weeks or interfere with daily activities, it is time to ask for help. (See resource list on reverse)

  • Symptoms of Depression:
    • Persistent sadness, hopelessness, and frequent crying/tearfulness
    • Feeling worthless or guilty, especially about not being a good mother
    • Feeling angry or irritable
    • Trouble sleeping despite feeling very tired, or sleeping more than usual
    • Lack of interest in baby and loss of pleasure in things previously enjoyed
    • Loss of or increase in appetite or weight
    • Thoughts of harming self or baby

Anxiety

Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women experience generalized anxiety. Anxiety can occur alone or in addition to depression.

  • Symptoms of Anxiety:
    • Excessive and constant worrying
    • Fear that something bad will happen to the baby
    • Racing thoughts and inability to sit still
    • Trouble sleeping despite being tired; change in appetite
  • Specific Types of Anxiety:
    • Panic Disorder - Women often feel very nervous and have recurring panic attacks, during which they may experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Women suffering from OCD have recurrent, unwanted thoughts or images called obsessions. They may use repetitive actions, called compulsions, to deal with the obsessive thoughts. Examples of compulsions include frequently needing to wash or clean hands, or constantly rechecking things.

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Postpartum PTSD affects approximately 1-6% of women following childbirth. Often, this disorder is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum.

  • Symptoms of Postpartum PTSD:
    • Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event
    • Flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks
    • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, people, and details of traumatic event
    • Irritability, trouble sleeping, easily startled

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition that typically develops within the first two weeks after delivery. You need to call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Fear that you will harm yourself or baby, or if you attempt to harm either
  • Paranoia, confusion, and/or disorientation

TREATMENT


Most women suffering from a perinatal mood disorder realize something is wrong, but often they do not seek help. It is important to know that it will not go away on its own. Treatment can include skilled professional care (psychological counseling), medication (antidepressants and/or hormonal therapy), and support groups. Contact your health care provider to take the first step toward feeling like yourself again.


RESOURCES

  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) - PA branch
    1.800.944.4PPD (4773) or postpartum.net FREE support group in West Chester meets 2nd Sat. of the month. Contact Erin Saddic, MS (PA co-coordinator for PSI) 610.931.5547 or erinsaddic@verizon.net
  • Crisis Intervention for Chester County (Holcomb Behavioral Health/Valley Creek Crisis Center)
    610.918.2100 or 610.280.3270 or ChescoCrisis.Holcomb-bhs.org
  • Postpartum Stress Center (Karen Kleiman, MSW - Rosemont and Devon)
    610.525.7527 or PostpartumStress.com (specializes in diagnosis and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety.) One-time phone consult for free.
  • Human Services, Inc. (West Chester, Downingtown, Oxford, West Goshen)
    610.873.1010 (Bilingual, Insurance and medical assistance accepted, but not required)
  • Family Services of Chester County (West Chester)
    610.696.4900 or FamilyService.us (most insurance and medical assistance accepted)
  • National Hispanic Perinatal Helpline (Referrals to free and low-income clinics and mental health providers)
    1.800.504.7081 - Monday through Friday at 6 am to 9 pm


Last Updated: 4/10/2014