According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), up to 85% of women experience a mood disorder in the post partum period. Becoming pregnant and giving birth to a baby can be extremely stressful. New mothers may be extremely worried about their newborn becoming sick or hurt in addition to the common stressors a new baby brings. This worry can become pathological if it affects the mother’s daily functioning. Postpartum blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis comprise the spectrum of mood disorders in the postpartum period. These not only directly affect the mother’s well-being but can have detrimental effects on the infant as well. Often times, mothers with severe postpartum depression have a difficult time getting out of been and may leave their baby unattended weakening the maternal bond, a very important aspect for healthy development of the infant. Screening for postpartum depression is strongly recommended at each post partum physician’s visit however many medical professionals often times overlook this or many mothers believe these feelings are normal during this period.
A recent study from the University of British Columbia found that extreme anxiety is 3-4 times more common than depression in the antenatal and postnatal period. Postpartum or intrapartum anxiety is not include in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Disorders (DSM) and therefore is often overlooked by health care professionals even though many mothers have severe anxiety during this period.
“Pregnant women and postpartum women who are suffering from an anxiety disorder may not be getting the screening or assessment or treatment that they need because we aren’t thinking to ask about these kinds of concerns because we’re so focused on depression”, states lead author Nichole Fairbrother, an assistant professor in the UBC Island Medical Program.
Another concern about the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the pregnant and post partum population is treatment with typical anti anxiety medications. Benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and alprazolam are the pharmacological treatments of choice for anxiety disorders however this class of medication should not be used in the pregnant or post partum population as it can result in severe addiction in both the mother and the infant as benzodiazepines are known to cross the placental barrier. Therefore treatment is aimed at providing non-pharmacological therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
A mother’s worst fear is becoming a bad mother and therefore shame is surrounded by mood disorders in pregnancy and after birth to the extent that many women are fearful of speaking about their symptoms until they become unbearable. Unbearable symptoms can create an insurmountable amount of stress creating a dangerous environment for the mother and baby. Self inflicted harm, shaken baby syndrome and other account of abuse have been commonly documented due to overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Speaking about these initial feelings can not only help end the stigma but may prevent future abuse potential due to a mental illness.
For those mothers in need of help, we are here for you. Sovereign Health of Arizona provides comprehensive treatment for women struggling with mental health, dual diagnosis and substance abuse with an emphasis in treating trauma. To learn more about our programs please contact our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Kristen Fuller M.D. is a medical writer at Sovereign Health and enjoys writing about evidence-based topic in the cutting world of medicine. She is a physician author who also teaches, practices medicine in the urgent care setting and contributes to medicine board education. She is an outdoor and dog enthusiast. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the latest news on program developments, behavioral health news and company announcements