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Mood Disorders During Pregnancy & Childbirth

Hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth can have a profound impact on mood. Approximately 10% of women experience depression during pregnancy, and studies show that women who have been treated for depression before pregnancy are more likely to experience depression during pregnancy. Depression is a serious medical condition that poses risks for both mother and baby. That’s why it’s important for women who have had a history of depression, or are taking antidepressants, speak with their physician prior to trying to conceive. The good news is, there are highly effective treatment options available to manage depression during pregnancy, including individual and group therapy or counseling, and in some cases anti-depressant medication.

Postpartum mood changes are common due to the significant hormonal changes that occur immediately following childbirth. In fact, approximately 80% of women experience the “baby blues” – a period of heightened emotional sensitivity and mild depression which occurs within the first 10 days after delivery and may last about 1-2 weeks.

However, for about 10-15% of women, these symptoms are more profound and persistent. Called postpartum depression, this condition can occur within the first few weeks after childbirth and can persist up to one year or longer, if not treated. Postpartum depression is characterized by moderate-to-severe mood changes that can interfere with a woman’s ability to handle day-to-day tasks, including caring for her infant.

Postpartum depression symptoms generally include:

  • Severe mood swings and intense irritability and anger
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Lack of joy in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia


In some cases, postpartum depression is so severe that a woman may have thoughts of harming herself or her infant. In these cases, it is critical that a woman seek immediate medical attention.

Support at Hoag Hospital

Hoag Women’s Health Institute also offers a Postpartum Adjustment Group for new mothers experiencing the baby blues or postpartum depression. This free, ongoing support group focuses on teaching positive coping skills and providing support and education. Risk factors and symptoms of postpartum depression are discussed, as well as strategies for successfully overcoming depression. The support group is facilitated by LCSW and meets Monday evenings from 6 – 7 p.m in the Hoag Hospital Conference Center (Building 44), Suite CC3. Group is free to our community. Babies and support persons are welcome. For more information, please call the Babyline at 949/764-2229.