Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
(including postpartum depression)
Childbirth is an emotional experience. Feelings of excitement and happiness often accompany feelings of sadness, anxiety, and worry. Or, sometimes the distress overwhelms any feelings of happiness. You may be aware of the term ‘postpartum depression’, but women have different struggles that can happen throughout the perinatal period – that is, during pregnancy and up to about a year after childbirth. Also, many people don’t realize that men, as well as women, often struggle emotionally with the transition into parenthood.
Some (but not all) specific difficulties are:
Initial maternal indifference: About 40% of mothers feel indifference toward their babies after giving birth. Treatment is not necessary because it typically goes away on its own within three days.
Postpartum blues: During the first two or three weeks after giving birth, around 80% of new mothers experience symptoms of weepiness, insomnia, confusion, anxiety and irritability, and feelings of being overwhelmed and highly sensitive. These difficulties have a minimal effect on the mother’s ability to function and they disappear on their own. However, education, reassurance, and emotional support can be very helpful.
Perinatal depression (including postpartum depression): Symptoms of depression can begin during pregnancy or within about six months after birth. Some common symptoms of depression are: fatigue, sadness, less interest in most or all activities, hopelessness, appetite disturbance, confusion, thoughts of self-harm, and thoughts of harming the baby.
Perinatal anxiety: Common symptoms of anxiety include: constant worry, restlessness, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, and physical symptoms like a racing heart or shakiness.
Postpartum psychosis: About one or two mothers in 1,000 experience this most severe form of postpartum reaction, which generally happens within the first month after childbirth. Symptoms of this are having difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality, hallucinations, delusions or strange beliefs, paranoia, and inappropriate responses in conversation. These women may also experience intense irritability, extreme depression and/or elation. Their functioning is extremely impaired, and they may be a danger to themselves or their infants. Although very serious, it is temporary and treatable. So, if you suspect that you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum psychosis, immediately call a doctor, local emergency phone number, or a national emergency number, such as the Crisis Call Center at 800-273-8255 (or text them “ANSWER” to 839863).
For more information about perinatal mood disorders, see Postpartum Support International
If you decide that you need professional help for postpartum depression, anxiety, or any emotional difficulties during pregnancy or after giving birth, I am here to help. I schedule individual therapy appointments, as well as offering support for couples. Also, you are always welcome to bring your baby to sessions.
For those who live in New Jersey and New York and are not yet ready or able to leave home after having a baby, I offer therapy online through videoconferencing. When continued therapy is necessary, you can follow up with me in my office or I can help you find a therapist in your area.
Schedule an appointment today by contacting Dr. Becker-Phelps:
or send a request for information