Take time to adjust to a new baby and lifestyle changes — and reach out for help if you need it.
For many people, pregnancy is an exciting time. However, it can also bring both physical and mental challenges for the pregnant person and the entire family. According to the CDC, depression and anxiety are the most common complications in pregnancy and the postpartum period, with 1 in 8 women affected by mental health complications.
In the first few days of having a new baby, there are many changes for parents, including hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, adjustments to new roles, and social isolation. Many women may experience the “baby blues,” and for some, baby blues may progress to depression. Symptoms of depression are more intense and long-lasting. Depression can interfere with daily activities and baby bonding. While we hear stories of consequences associated with postpartum depression — such as suicide — there is treatment that can help.
“Shame and guilt can be overwhelming for women who do not share their symptoms. Nonetheless, it is essential that women feel safe to express their feelings,” said Sacha Lewis, MD, assistant area medical director, Women’s Health Services, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kaiser Permanente in Riverside. “Untreated depression is associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes, baby bonding, and cognitive and psychological outcomes for the child.”
“Maternal suicide deaths, while rare, are a leading cause of maternal death in the postpartum period, Dr. Lewis said. “For these reasons, seeking support at the first sign of symptoms may be beneficial. Understanding it is normal to feel sad, anxious, or depressed is important so that women feel safe asking for help.”
If you think you may have anxiety or depression, finding help is important for yourself and your family. Talk to your physician about depression during your next visit, later in pregnancy, or again in the postpartum phase. Treatment can help improve the chances for a healthier pregnancy, ensure better care for your newborn, and improve long-term health for you and your child.
“Pregnancy and the postpartum period can be a stressful time. But when symptoms become severe and interfere with regular daily activities, the situation can signal something more, and it may be time to seek help,” said Ashley Zucker, MD, Psychology, Kaiser Permanente in San Bernardino. “Postpartum depression is treatable with therapy and medication that is safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”
During this potentially vulnerable time, it’s important to get maternity care, and to recognize postpartum depression, including the symptoms and the availability of support. Give yourself time to adjust to a new baby and overall lifestyle changes. But if you are not sure how to cope, talking with a doctor about treatment options can help. Learn more about maternity care and mental health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente.