According to the Postpartum Resource Center, 10 to 20 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression, and 1 to 2 percent experience postpartum psychosis.
Additional research indicates between 60 and 80 percent of women will experience the baby blues. At less severe depression that typically begins roughly three days after delivery. Symptoms include fatigue and sadness but typically will dissipate after two weeks or so postpartum.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates while depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after birth can happen to anyone, there are risk factors that may make some more likely to experience one or both.
Risk factors include:
- A history of depression or anxiety, either during pregnancy or at other times.
- Family history of depression or anxiety.
- A difficult pregnancy or birth experience.
- Giving birth to twins or other multiples.
- Experiencing problems in your relationship with your partner.
- Experiencing financial problems.
- Receiving little or no support from family or friends to help you care for your baby.
- Unplanned pregnancy.
Let’s remember the current situation we are all in when we consider these risk factors. Such as an increase in depression in general due to social distancing and stay at home orders; difficult pregnancies and births due to change in birth plans and after birth visitation; more tension within relationships due to the stressors of the current health crisis; increase financial stressors as a result of job loss and layoffs; and a lack of physical support from family and friends due to social distancing restrictions.
This can add up. While the CDC notes researchers do not fully understand the causes of these conditions, depression, and anxiety during this time may result from a mix of physical, emotional, and environmental factors.
The National Child & Maternal Health Education Program indicates that partners and family members are often the first to recognize the signs of postpartum in new mothers. So, what do we do when an international health crisis has engulfed society as we know it and a mother’s access to family and friends has significantly been reduced in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus?
Unfortunately, the CDC admits there is no way to prevent depression or anxiety that occurs during pregnancy or after birth, but knowing what the signs and symptoms are can help moms and their social circles prepare and get help quickly. Here are a few things the CDC recommends:
- Find out whether you have factors that put you at greater risk for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth.
- Talk with a health care provider about depression and anxiety around pregnancy and learn what to watch for.
- Learn as much as you can about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood so you know what to expect.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and your family.
- Do things in addition to seeking treatment that may help you feel better.
- Plan ahead. While you’re pregnant, think about who can give you support and help when your baby comes. Talk with that person about helping you so that you can both prepare.
Remember, depression and anxiety that happen during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby are not things you cause—they are medical conditions that require medical care, according to the CDC.
If you believe you are already experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, the CDC recommends you attempt the following treatment options in addition to consulting with a professional.
- Connect with other moms.
Look for a moms’ group in your community or online. (Newsymom note, such as Newsymom.com and/or our Facebook or Instagram) These groups may give you the chance to learn from others who are going through or have gone through the same thing and to share your own feelings. Postpartum Support International (PSI) can help you locate groups in your area. Postpartum Progress® offers a private online community so you can connect with other moms no matter where you live.
- Make time for yourself.
Do something for you, like getting out of the house, or taking a hot bath without interruption. If you can, have your partner, a family member, or babysitter watch the baby regularly and go visit a friend or run an errand.
- Do something you enjoy.
Whether it is listening to music, reading a book, or watching a favorite movie, take a bit of time each day to do something you enjoy.
- Be realistic.
You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to have the “perfect” home. Just do what you can and leave the rest.
- Ask for help.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends, whether it’s caring for the baby or doing household chores.
- Rest when the baby rests.
Sleep is just as important for you as it is for the baby. Sleep when the baby sleeps, during naps and at night.
- Be with others.
Seek out other adults, like family and friends, who can provide comfort and company. Regularly create a special time for you and your partner or for you and a friend to be together.
And don’t forget to check on other mommas within your circle.