Perinatal and Postpartum Anxiety, Depression, and OCD

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Perinatal and Postpartum Anxiety, Depression, and OCD

Postpartum anxiety, depression, and OCD are mood disorders that new mothers may experience after delivery. It can start any time during her baby’s first year, but it’s most common for mothers to feel its effects during the first 3 weeks after birth. Approximately 70-80% of all mothers will experience some form of the baby blues, and roughly 15-20% of all mothers will experience some sort of mood disorder postpartum. These mothers typically feel sad, hopeless, guilty, overly anxious, or suffer from intrusive thoughts that won’t go away. These feelings make bonding with and caring for her baby exceptionally difficult.

Perinatal anxiety and depression is lesser known than postpartum but is a real phenomena for many pregnant women. “Perinatal” is the collective term for the time during a mother’s pregnancy. Perinatal women who experience depression and anxiety often struggle with taking care of themselves and don’t experience the joy and anticipation of pregnancy; instead they may feel overly anxious about their health or their baby’s health, lose motivation to complete daily tasks, obsess over cleanliness or battle with intrusive thoughts such as harming themselves.

Is it the “baby blues” or a perinatal/postpartum mood disorder?

When welcoming your baby into your family or anticipating the birth of your child you were prepared for joy and excitement, not exhaustion, anxiety, and weepiness. You may not have been expecting it, but mild depression or anxiety and mood swings are common in new mothers—so common, in fact, that it has its own name: the baby blues.

The majority of women (70-80%) experience at least some symptoms of the baby blues immediately after childbirth. It is a feeling precipitated by the sudden change in hormones after delivery, stress, isolation, sleep deprivation, and fatigue. The symptoms of depression and the baby blues may feel similar. You might feel more tearful, overwhelmed, and emotionally fragile. Generally, the baby blues start within the first couple of days after delivery and subside by the end of the second week postpartum. If symptoms persist beyond the first couples weeks of delivery, consider professional help. 

Symptoms of Perinatal/Postpartum mood disorders include:

  • feeling overwhelmed

  • intensely anxious

  • weepy or like you’re crying all the time

  • irritable or angry

  • feelings of sadness and despair

  • extremely tired and without energy

  • feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty

  • changes in sleep routine unrelated to your baby

  • emotional eating or loss of appetite

  • unable to concentrate or forgetful

  • intensely worried about your baby

  • uninterested in your newborn or doing things you used to enjoy

  • inability to bond with your baby

  • fighting intrusive thoughts, such as harming yourself or your child

  • suicidal thoughts

There’s no single reason why some mothers experience perinatal or postpartum mood disorders and others don’t, but a number of interrelated causes and risk factors are believed to contribute to the problem. These include hormone changes, history of depression, and stress. Perinatal and postpartum mood disorders are not limited to first-time moms; experienced mothers can experience them it even if they didn’t with previous pregnancies and postpartum.

4 ways to cope with Perinatal and Postpartum Mood Disorders

1. Create a secure attachment with your baby. A secure attachment is formed when you as the mother respond warmly and consistently to your baby’s physical and emotional needs. 

2. Lean on others for support. Make your relationships a priority, and don't keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself. Pregnant and postpartum mothers must be open about what they are experiencing. Don’t be afraid of sharing your struggle.

3. Self Care. Sleep, showers, sweat, sunshine and social interactions can lift the spirits. 

4. Make time for your partner. The demands and needs of a new baby or the physical stresses that come with being pregnant can get in the way and fracture this relationship unless couples put some time, energy, and thought into preserving their bond. 

Our therapists at The EFT Clinic are here to help you get through this difficult time. Contact us today to set up an appointment. If you are interested in joining our Perinatal and Postpartum Support Group, please email info@theeftclinic.com. We would love to see you there!