Pregnancy and motherhood is a time in a woman’s life that brings about so many life changes, emotions and new experiences. Many of these new changes can be filled with immense joy, but it is equally as common for individuals to encounter challenges during this time.
Research shows that 80% of mothers experience “baby blues” in the first few days after childbirth, and 1 in 7 develop postpartum depression or anxiety within the first year. Although postpartum mental health disorders are common, there are often social stigmas and myths that can prevent women from being diagnosed and receiving the care they need which can include counseling. There are several factors that contribute to perinatal mood disorders including physical, psychosocial and concurrent stressors. Some of these factors include genetic predisposition, history of mental health disorders, sensitivity to hormonal changes, lack of support system, perfectionism, lack of sleep, poor diet, interpersonal stress, and cultural stress. Rates of PPD and PPA have also risen throughout COVID. One study indicates that 1 in 3 new mothers reported postpartum depression amidst the pandemic. This drastic increase in prevalence highlights the importance of receiving adequate and consistent prenatal care and having access to a support system.
Although perinatal mood disorders cannot always be prevented, providing women and families with the support and resources they need can greatly affect the severity and duration. First and foremost psychoeducation is essential to reducing feelings of shame and guilt while also providing information on symptoms to look out for or determining the need for counseling with a therapist who is familiar with postpartum depression. All women should be screened for perinatal mood disorders both during pregnancy and postpartum. The ideal model for recovery and prevention starts prenatally in order to implement a comprehensive care plan for both mom and baby.
Once a perinatal mood disorder is identified, there are several components of care for the individual including medical intervention, mother- infant attachment support, and social support. It is imperative that all four components of care provide support to the mothers with a nonjudgmental and empathic approach in order for the women to feel empowered throughout their journey.
Every woman will have a different journey throughout pregnancy and motherhood and it is imperative that we not only normalize these differences, but that we also support each woman uniquely based upon these differences. It is never too early or too late to seek out support throughout this journey. Therapy can be a wonderful resource for not just perinatal mood disorders, but also for the everyday changes that come along with pregnancy and parenthood.
Wisner KL, Sit DY, McShea MC, et al. Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):490-498.
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