Peripartum depression is depression that affects a woman during pregnancy and/or after childbirth (postpartum depression). After childbirth, the American Psychiatry Association notes that up to 70% of women experience the “baby blues”, which is a short-term condition characterized by feelings of irritability, restlessness, anxiety, and crying for no reason.
Peripartum depression is not to be confused with the baby blues, as it is both physically and emotionally debilitating and can have risks for mother and child. Unlike the baby blues, peripartum depression persists for a longer than two weeks and causes extreme sadness, anxiety, and/or indifference. It can also cause changes in sleep, appetite, and energy levels.
When peripartum depression occurs during pregnancy, these changes can increase the risk of low birth weight and/or premature birth in the infant. Furthermore, children whose mothers had peripartum depression are at an increased risk for cognitive, developmental, emotional, and verbal deficits.
Did You Know?
Hormonal changes make women at increased risk for development of psychiatric conditions. The peripartum period is the time of highest risk in a woman’s lifetime to develop mental illness.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Symptoms of peripartum depression can include:
- Anxiety and agitation
- Excessive worry or rumination
- Frequent tearfulness or crying
- Mood swings
- Feeling completely overwhelmed by mothering responsibilities
- Loss of pleasure in hobbies and things that were once enjoyable
- Changes in appetite
- Lack of interest in the baby, not feeling bonded to the baby, or feeling anxiety about or around the baby
- Feelings of being a bad mother
- Fear of harming the baby or oneself
In many cases, women with peripartum depression tend to experience multiple symptoms. The severity of each symptom may also change over time. Only a licensed mental health professional can accurately diagnose peripartum depression, so if you or a loved one are showing symptoms, schedule a consultation with our psychiatrists at Florida Family Psychiatry today.
There is no single test to diagnose peripartum depression. Instead, peripartum depression is diagnosed after a physical exam, discussion of your medical history, a review of symptoms, and ruling out other conditions that cause similar physical symptoms (such as thyroid problems or other endocrine issues). You will likely be asked to fill out a self-assessment and/or answer specific questions so that your provider can give you an accurate diagnosis.
How is peripartum depression treated?
In most cases, a combination of talk therapy and medication is recommended. Talk therapy can help change thoughts and behaviors contributing to peripartum depression, while medication is generally used to balance brain chemicals that affect mood and emotions. Most medications used to treat peripartum depression have low risk to the baby, however the risk and benefits of medications will be thoroughly discussed to determine if medication is appropriate.
Once treatment for peripartum depression has started, women are encouraged to continue the treatment even when they feel better. This is because stopping treatment too soon could cause the symptoms to recur. The vast majority of psychiatric medications are compatible with breastfeeding and may be continued during this time as well.
Some of the contents of this Florida Family Psychiatry (FFP) webpage were sourced from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, the National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Postpartum Support International, and their affiliates. The content on this page should be used for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. FFP has made every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the content on this website. However, the information is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind.
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