Anxiety and depression during the perinatal period are common. (The perinatal period referring to the time from conception until one year after birth.) While “Postpartum Depression” (PPD) is the often-used term, there are a spectrum of different related mental health disorders that affect mothers during pregnancy and postpartum (e.g., Depression or Anxiety during pregnancy, perinatal OCD, Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). Together these are referred to as PMADs (Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders).
Although the exact rate is not known, research has found that up to 30% of women experience a PMAD (the often-cited statistic is between 14% and 20% of the general population). Another study from 2018 found 35% of pregnant women experienced high anxiety. Anxiety during pregnancy has been connected to more adverse outcomes in pregnancy and delivery as well as higher rates of depression after birth. Rates of prenatal depression during the pandemic have been even higher.
Despite the potential consequences, maternal mental health and wellness during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth remains a poorly addressed health need. The number of women who receive adequate therapeutic support is low. Depression and anxiety are often not adequately screened for or diagnosed during pregnancy and within the first year after giving birth. Most women do not get the support they need. An alarming statistic is that only 15% of women who suffer from anxiety or depression during the perinatal period get support they need. Some studies even found lower rates that less than 10% of women who need it receive adequate treatment.
Rates of depression and anxiety can be significantly reduced with universal screening evidence-based support and services. While 60-80% of women experience the “Baby blues” during the first few weeks after birth, if symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks, it could be an indicator of PPD. Severity and duration of symptoms will help determine diagnosis. Without adequate intervention there could be long term negative outcomes for parents and children.
For a detailed Action Plan for Depression and Anxiety around Pregnancy see: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/Documents/ActionPlan_DepressionAnxiety.pdf
Signs and Symptoms: For a definition of perinatal depression as well as a list of signs and symptoms visit the National Institute of Mental Health website https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression.
Reducing anxiety, depression, and stress during and after pregnancy is related to significantly better outcomes for infants, mothers, and families. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, are overwhelmed, lack of feelings or connection to your baby, anxiety, have high agitation, or social isolation please reach out for support.
PMADs are not your fault, you are not to blame, and you are not alone. The symptoms can be significantly reduced and you can feel better and receive help with appropriate evidence-based therapy and safe medication if needed.
Talk with your physician, search for trained providers and support groups on https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/ or call PSI Helpline: (800) 944-4PPD or Text “Help” to 800-944-4773 (English) Text 971-203-7773 en Español.
Additional Resources and Information
Postpartum Support International (PSI) https://www.postpartum.net
Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative: https://www.flmomsmatter.org/pmad-facts
APA: https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression-brochure-2007.pdf and https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression
If You Know Someone in Crisis: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Dial 911 in an emergency.
- Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential.
- Contact the Crisis Text Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by texting HELLO to 741741.
Kendig, S., Keats, J. P., Hoffman, M. C., Kay, L. B., Miller, E. S., Moore Simas, T. A., Frieder, A., Hackley, B., Indman, P., Raines, C., Semenuk, K., Wisner, K. L., & Lemieux, L. A. (2017). Consensus Bundle on Maternal Mental Health: Perinatal Depression and Anxiety. JOGNN - Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 46(2), 272-281. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jogn.2017.01.001
Nakić Radoš, S., Tadinac, M., & Herman, R. (2018). Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum: Course, Predictors and Comorbidity with Postpartum Depression. Acta clinica Croatica, 57(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.20471/acc.2017.56.04.05