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Depression during and after pregnancy occur more often than most people realize. Depression during pregnancy is also called antepartum or prenatal depression, and depression after pregnancy is called postpartum depression.
Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth. The percentages are even higher for women who are also dealing with poverty, and can be twice as high for teen parents. Ten percent of women experience depression in pregnancy. In fact, perinatal depression is the most common complication of childbirth.
Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone, and might include the following:
- Feelings of anger or irritability
- Lack of interest in the baby
- Appetite and sleep disturbance
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal disorders. You do not have to be diagnosed with OCD to experience these common symptoms of perinatal anxiety. It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers and some new fathers will experience these symptoms. The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come “out of the blue.” Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional, and have very low risk of being acted upon. It is far more likely that the parent with this symptom takes steps to avoid triggers and avoid what they fear is potential harm to the baby.
Symptoms of perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can include:
- Obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced before.
- Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, check things many times, count or reorder things.
- A sense of horror about the obsessions
- Fear of being left alone with the infant
- Hypervigilance in protecting the infant
- Moms with postpartum OCD know that their thoughts are bizarre and are very unlikely to ever act on them.
Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression.
The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Fact Sheet
Information courtesy of Postpartum Support International www.postpartum.net