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Beyond the ‘Baby Blues.’ Four Things to Know About Maternal Mental Health


Deep depression. Feelings of helplessness. Emotional withdrawal. Unsurprisingly, none of these ever make the cut as baby shower themes, but maternal mental health issues may be more relevant to new mothers than pastel elephants or “ready to pop” balloons decorations.

With more than 13 percent of new mothers experiencing a significant mental health disorder, what should you really expect when expecting?

Some Change in Mood Is Normal

Thanks to wild hormonal shifts after delivery, most new moms experience the “baby blues,” bouts of anxiety, crying and restlessness that goes away within the first two weeks after giving birth. As a woman’s hormone levels even out, this mild form of depression dissipates on its own.

Signs That You Are Experiencing Maternal Mental Health Issues

When postpartum depression takes a more intense, longer-lasting residency in a woman’s psyche, it may be time to seek out help. Symptoms of maternal mental health disorders, which can develop during pregnancy and last up to a year after birth, include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness

Symptoms that require immediate treatment include:

  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Maternal Mental Health Issues Can Begin During Pregnancy

For women with existing mental health conditions, mental health care is a key part of self-care before and during pregnancy. Hoag offers pre-conception planning, mental health assessments during pregnancy and postpartum, individual and group psychotherapy. In addition, Hoag can help women with medication safety evaluation before and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, pharmacogenomics testing and connection to local support services. Hoag also offers a Virtual Beyond the Birth Plan Class, a 30-minute on-demand class that addresses expectations, identifies sources of support and addresses issues such as new family dynamics, sleep hygiene, coping with the baby blues and self-care after delivery.

Know That You Are Not Alone

The Hoag Maternal Mental Health Program is dedicated to helping women experiencing mental health conditions before, during and after pregnancy. Experts from the Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute and Women’s Health Institute is here to work with you toward a shared goal of healthy outcomes for both you and your baby. The adage that “It Takes a Village” to raise a child is true. Your team at Hoag is part of your village. We’ll help find fast answers to your questions before, during and after your treatment.

Call Maternal Mental Health Support at 949-764-5333.