Mental health matters for moms. Postpartum depression is one name you might hear for depression and anxiety that can happen during and after pregnancy. But it might not be the best way to describe what women feel.
The word “postpartum” means “after birth,” so “postpartum depression” is talking only about depression after the baby is born. For many women, this term is correct: They start feeling depression sometime within the first year after they have the baby.
Research shows, however, that some women start to feel depression while they’re still pregnant. You might hear the term “perinatal depression” to describe this situation. The word “perinatal” describes the time during pregnancy or just after birth.
Researchers believe depression is one of the most common problems women experience during and after pregnancy.
Fortunately, there are treatments, and they can help you feel better. Treatment can reduce symptoms or make them go away completely.
Many treatment options are available for depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after birth. Some women may participate in counseling or talk therapy; others may need medication. There is no single, one-size-fits-all treatment.
Your provider may ask you a set of questions to learn more about what you are feeling. Together, you can find the treatment right for you. Some treatments for depression and anxiety that occur during or after pregnancy are listed below.
Counseling. Some women find it helpful to talk about their concerns or feelings with a mental health provider. Your provider can help you find ways to manage your feelings and to make changes to help ease the depression or anxiety.
Medication. Several medications can treat depression and anxiety effectively and are safe for pregnant women and for breastfeeding moms and their babies. Talk with a health-care provider about medications that may be right for you. You can also visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to learn about drugs and their possible effects on a breastfed baby.
Alternative therapies.There are some things you can do, in addition to treatment, that may help you feel better:
- Connect with other moms. Look for a moms’ group in your community or online. These groups may give you the chance to learn from others who are going through or have gone through the same thing and to share your own feelings. Postpartum Support International can help you locate groups in your area. Postpartum Progress offers a private online community so you can connect with other moms no matter where you live.
- Make time for yourself. Do something for you, like getting out of the house, or taking a hot bath without interruption. If you can, have your partner, a family member or babysitter watch the baby and go visit a friend or run an errand.
- Do something you enjoy. Whether it is listening to music, reading a book, or watching a favorite movie, take a bit of time each day to do something you enjoy.
- Be realistic. You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to have the “perfect” home. Just do what you can and leave the rest.
- Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends, whether it’s caring for the baby or doing household chores.
- Rest when the baby rests. Sleep is just as important for you as it is for the baby. Sleep when the baby sleeps, during naps and at night.
- Be with others. Seek out other adults, like family and friends, who can provide comfort and company. Regularly create a special time for you and your partner or for you and a friend to be together.
Currently, there is no known way to prevent depression or anxiety that occurs during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby. But knowing what signs and symptoms to watch for during and after pregnancy can help you prepare and get help quickly. Here’s what you can do:
- Find out whether you have factors that put you at greater risk for depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth.
- Talk with a health-care provider about depression and anxiety around pregnancy and learn what to watch for.
- Learn as much as you can about pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood so you know what to expect.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself and your family.
- Do things in addition to seeking treatment that may help you feel better.
- Plan ahead. While you’re pregnant, think about who can give you support and help when your baby comes. Talk with that person about helping you so you can both prepare.
Remember, your mental health matters. Depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after the birth of your baby are not things you cause—they are medical conditions that require medical care.