Understanding Depression during Pregnancy, Postpartum & Motherhood

 Women experience various periods of vulnerability throughout their lives, particularly during their childbearing years. Pregnancy can bring unexpected emotional challenges. Hormonal fluctuations play a significant role in affecting mood. Additionally, the stress of impending motherhood, body image concerns and fears about the future can contribute to heightened stress levels. 

Why are mothers at risk for depression?

While pregnancy and motherhood are often described as times of joy and anticipation, the reality is that many women experience mood changes that can escalate into depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Understanding the causes of depression specific to mothers is important — higher stress levels, hormonal changes, societal expectations, and the challenges of pregnancy and early motherhood contribute significantly to the vulnerability of mothers to depression. The weight of societal expectations and the perceived need to conform to high standards of motherhood can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and despair. 

It’s a struggle that affects not just mothers but also their families. Studies have shown that 1 in 10 children in the U.S. has a mother experiencing depression in any given year. Although it seems that pregnant women are experiencing higher rates of depression than ever before, current research suggests that pregnant and postpartum women may have greater opportunities to accurately report depression because of their regular pre-and postnatal doctor appointments. The increased visibility of mental health discussions during these appointments encourages conversations about mood changes, making it more likely for women to share their experiences. 

How depression presents in motherhood

It is crucial to recognize the symptoms of maternal depression early on to prevent further deterioration. Among the symptoms indicating depression during and after pregnancy are persistent sadness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, lack of emotion and feelings of hopelessness. Loved ones should take care to be attuned to these signs and offer understanding, empathy and active engagement in emotional support. 

Partners can play a pivotal role in supporting mothers during these challenging times. Encouraging open communication and seeking professional help when needed are essential steps in fostering a supportive environment. 

Treatment approaches

When it comes to treatment, flexibility is key. Accommodating therapy schedules, considering family therapy options, and ensuring a strong support system are crucial components. Therapy, both individual and family-oriented, can provide a safe space for mothers to express their feelings, receive guidance and develop coping mechanisms. 

Acknowledging and addressing depression during pregnancy and postpartum is not a sign of weakness but an essential step toward building healthier families. By fostering an environment that supports mothers and provides accessible mental health resources, we can begin to break down the barriers that perpetuate maternal depression and ensure that every mother receives the care she needs. 

#MentalHealth #MakeItMainstream

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issue, help is out there. Contact the Mental Health America 24/7 Crisis Text Line (Text MHA to 741-741).

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