Maternal Depression





In general, clinical depression occurs in approximately 15 to 25 percent of the population, and women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Because women are most likely to experience depression during the primary reproductive years (25 to 45), they are especially vulnerable to developing depression during pregnancy and after childbirth. Women who develop these disorders do not need to feel ashamed or alone; treatment and support are available.


Maternal depression encompasses a wide range of mood disorders that can affect a woman during pregnancy and after the birth of her child. It includes prenatal depression, the "baby blues," postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis.



While many of the symptoms are the same across categories, a woman with postpartum depression experiences these symptoms much more strongly and can be impaired to the point where she is unable to do things she needs to do everyday. Unlike the baby blues which begin shortly after delivery, and resolve within a couple of weeks, postpartum depression can begin at anytime during the first year after giving birth and can last longer than baby blues. While a serious condition, it can be treated successfully with medication and counseling.


If a woman feels she might be experiencing maternal depression and her condition interferes in any way with her ability to do what she needs to do, it might be serious. She should not be afraid to tell her doctor if she has suicidal thoughts or has obsessive thoughts of harming herself or her baby.Postpartum psychosis usually presents within a few days to a month after delivery, but can occur anytime during the first year. Symptoms may appear abruptly. This disorder has a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate. Postpartum psychosis is a severe but treatable emergency and requires immediate admission to a psychiatric facility.


Risk Factors for perinatal depression


Prior episodes of postpartum depression, depression during pregnancy, personal or family history of depression, unplanned pregnancy, complications during pregnancy or childbirth, preterm birth, abrupt weaning, poor support from a partner, being a single parent, having a history of severe PMS, experiencing multiple or stressful life events, social isolation, history of childhood trauma or abuse, and substance abuse.


Treatment of maternal depression:The two most common forms of treatment are psychotherapy and medications. The type of treatment will depend on the severity of the depression. If a woman is pregnant, plans on breastfeeding, or is breastfeeding, she needs to consult with a qualified physician who is knowledgeable about the latest research on the teratogenic effects of psychotropic medications. Non-clinical interventions such as rest, exercise, or a change in diet can sometimes be helpful. Also, finding a support group where other women having similar experiences willingly share their experiences can reassure the mother that she is not alone. 

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