(In)fertility and Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

Becoming a mother is supposed to be a joyous process, full of happy anticipation and celebration. But this is not always the case. Getting pregnant is not so simple, or easy. For some women, it is just not possible. Others may experience repeated pregnancy loss. Becoming a mother can also be a process of loss and grief or expensive procedures, crushing disappointment and hopelessness. Seeking support and help during this time individually or as a couple, can ease the profound pain of infertility and pregnancy loss. Over time, the effects of these difficult experiences can erode one’s self-worth and relationship, and efforts to preserve and strengthen both are critical.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are associated with symptoms of mood and anxiety occurring during pregnancy or up to one year postpartum

Pregnancy is often accompanied by manageable anxiety and physical discomforts as one’s body changes. But for some women, pregnancy is a fraught emotional experience. Women may have pre-existing emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. Pregnancy can trigger these illnesses as well. It is difficult enough to deal with these feelings and experience, but it also elicits feelings of inadequacy and even shame. Family and friends continually express excitement, leaving expecting moms wondering “what is wrong with me?” An expecting mom will often feel alone and isolated in her troubling ambivalence, anxiety and despair.
Receiving therapeutic support and help during pregnancy, in conjunction with close supervision by an obstetrician, can provide comfort, reassurance and specific treatment for the expectant mother’s psychological symptoms. This is especially important given the greater risk for postpartum anxiety and depression. Raising awareness about the struggles of mood and anxiety during pregnancy promotes greater sensitivity and fosters a network of support and understanding among the expectant mother, her spouse/partner, family and friends.

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Many women experience a variety of symptoms that subside one to three weeks following delivery. Up to 85% of women experience postpartum “baby blues” when they feel some mood instability or depression, weepiness, sadness, irritability, anxiety, lack of concentration and feelings of dependency. “Baby blue” symptoms are usually self-limited and significantly different than the increased severity and duration of postpartum depression.

Following birth, 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression, which typically emerges over the first 2-3 months after childbirth. However, postpartum depression symptoms lasts for a minimum of two weeks and may occur at any time after delivery. Symptoms may appear throughout the year following birth, and for some women, they can continue into the second year. Women with PPD or anxiety struggle with their symptoms daily, and often feel alone and ashamed that they are not fulfilling the stereotypical image of the supremely happy mother of a new baby.
Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can have significant and lasting impact on the mother, baby and the entire family. It is important to remember that postpartum depression successfully responds to medical and psychological treatment, especially with the help and support of well-informed family and friends.

Helpful resources about perinatal mood and anxiety disorder:

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