Out Of The Shadows: 4 Key Reminders To Manage Perinatal Depression
Written by TIFFANY LEPA, NCC, LPC-ASSOCIATE
Society often gives the message that pregnancy and birth should be a joyful time. However, as many as 8 in 10 birthing parents experience “baby blues” postpartum which typically last less than two weeks. When symptoms of depression go beyond two weeks, an individual may be experiencing postpartum depression. Beyond postpartum depression, a commonly known mental health issue, parents may also experience perinatal mood disorders – also known as PMDs.
The term “perinatal” encompasses the experiences before, during, and after pregnancy and birth. Though prevalent, a stigma remains, as well as the need to normalize perinatal mental health struggles. Feelings of guilt are often associated with perinatal depression; however, considering the following information can change our perception of perinatal mental health issues.
You are not alone.
According to the CDC, one in nine women experience perinatal depression, and this statistic only includes birthing parents and those who sought a clinical diagnosis. Estimates have been made that about 20% of birthing parents experience PMDs. Additionally, perinatal mood disorders can affect those whose pregnancy resulted in a loss including miscarriage, still birth, or termination for medical reasons (TFMR).
Perinatal mood disorders can affect non-birthing parents as well.
Though research in this area is lacking, fathers, parents and partners of all gender identities, adoptive parents, and surrogate parents can all experience perinatal mood disorders. While hormonal and physical changes contribute to PMDs, many other factors play a part. Pregnancy, birth, and becoming a parent are major life transitions which can lead individuals to reflect more on their own childhood and upbringing and to unpack experiences that may influence their role as a parent.
There are many factors that can contribute to perinatal mood disorders.
These include the following:
- Life transition and a shift in identity
- Traumatic birth or a difficult and complicated pregnancy
- Relational or financial difficulties
- A history of depression or other mental health issues
- Birthing multiples
- Being a young parent, 25 years old or younger
- Lack of a consistent support system
- Parenting a child who has health issues or other special needs
- Difficulty breastfeeding or chestfeeding
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation
- Pressure to be the “perfect” parent
- A lack of confidence in parenting abilities
- Stress about returning to work (child care, time away from baby, etc.)
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are treatable, and a holistic treatment team can help.
- Talk therapy: Not only does therapy provide a space just for you for an hour a week (which in itself can be a relief), but therapists are also trained to help individuals heal from perinatal depression. Treatment that includes mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts, and mind-body connection have all been shown to help with PMDs.
- Medication: While there may be a stigma around using antidepressants, they have been shown to alleviate symptoms of PMDs. Just as it is important to talk with your therapist, working with a doctor, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner is an important piece of the puzzle too.
- Joyful Movement: If physically possible, taking time for joyful movement has shown to be one helpful component in the treatment of PMADs. Even 10 minutes outside taking a walk can provide a boost in endorphins and momentary relief from stresses at home.
- Systems of Support and Community: Having systems of support can have a huge impact on perinatal wellbeing. This can include a helpful partner, support groups for parents, and family or friends running errands or helping out with childcare to name a few. As a partner or a loved one of an individual experiencing perinatal depression, you can listen to your partner without judgment, explain that the depression isn’t their fault, take on additional tasks to allow them to have time for themselves, and reassure them that this is temporary and that getting help is okay.
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