A Deeper Understanding of Postpartum Depression

Mon, 23/06/2014

New research shows that "postpartum depression" isn't always postpartum -- sometimes it begins during pregnancy, or not for several months after giving birth -- and that it can take many forms beyond depression, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD, or a combination of different disorders. Many new moms mask mental health issues well and even appear to be fine and thriving.

The New York Times recently did a powerful series on our evolving understanding of maternal mental health issues. More women appear to be affected by postpartum depression or some form maternal mental illness than previously thought; studies show that as many as one in five women and at least one in eight woman develop symptoms in the year after giving birth.

Also, in a new development, the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders notes that some significant symptoms of maternal mental health issues (such as severe anxiety and even panic attacks) can begin to appear during pregnancy. Mental health experts previously thought that mental health issues usually begin to show in the four weeks after childbirth. In some cases, issues may even arise or peak in the later months of baby's first year. 

In the heartbreaking NYTimes story called "After Baby, an Unraveling: A Case Study in Maternal Mental Illness", we learn that the family of Cindy Wachenheim (a New York City woman who jumped to her death with her 10-month-old baby strapped to her chest) believes she could have possibly been helped if those around her knew more about the elusive nature of maternal mental health problems, particularly postpartum psychosis.

So, whether you or someone you know is pregnant or a new parent, read up on some signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, and check out the NYTimes articles and PostpartumProgress.org -- a growing online community of moms and families dealing with postpartum depression and maternal mental health issues.