The Crusader Newspaper Group

It’s not just feeling blue

Bringing a baby into the world can be a magical moment for new parents and their loved ones, but it comes with challenges. A growing family means changes, and those changes can have a huge impact on a woman’s mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 8 women experience some type post-partum depression (PPD) symptoms. PPD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) develop within one year of pregnancy.

“PPD specifically is the most common complication of childbirth yet not often talked about or screened for,” says Laura Gertz, a psychotherapist at Aurora Health Care.

However, it’s not simply about giving birth. While PPD and PMADs are complicated by hormonal factors during and after pregnancy, Gertz says mothers struggle with new realities that can affect their mental health.

“A large component of PPD is also a sense of loss. Loss of identity, freedom, pre-pregnancy body, and autonomy, among other things,” she explains.

Signs and symptoms of PPD include:
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Episodes of crying or tearfulness
  • Poor concentration, memory loss or difficulty making decisions
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feelings of irritability, anxiety or panic
  • Restlessness
  • Fear of hurting or killing yourself or your child
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Obsessive thoughts – especially unreasonable, repetitive fears about your child’s health and welfare
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain

However, it may be difficult for mothers to notice these symptoms on their own.

“Often it’s difficult for a woman to tell for herself. Partners, parents or in-laws, or friends may be the first to notice something off,” Gertz explains.

Gertz recommends loved ones take changes in a mother’s mood or demeanor seriously and seek medical care sooner rather than later.

“Reach out to her primary care doctor or a local mental health clinic. If she is so withdrawn, take her to the emergency room or mental health hospital for evaluation. Time is of the essence,” she says. “Suicide and drug overdose are among the leading causes of death in the post-partum period. In some cases, symptoms may lessen over time. In other cases, symptoms may worsen.”

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