• Aubrey Harris

Silent Suffering: Peripartum and Postpartum Depression

For many women, the experience of giving birth is one of excitement and renewed purpose. However, for women who struggle with existing or undiagnosed mental health conditions, peripartum or postpartum depression (PPD) can rear its head.

In the presence of a newborn infant, there’s an expectation of a lack of sleep and energy. However, support systems must be attentive to additional cognitive and behavioral shifts that take place in mothers. Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or emptiness that last longer than two weeks should raise questions and hopefully spur intervention.

Through increased awareness of PPD symptoms and treatment resources, we can ensure that the mental health needs of new mothers and children are being met.

According to the CDC, PPD occurs in 10-15% of new mothers. However, some argue ​​this may not be an accurate indicator cross-culturally, since many communities may under-report due to mental health stigma, perceptions, and levels of access. In addition, it does not factor in aspects of biological vulnerability.

An even more elusive experience of depression can occur during pregnancy. Before the child is even born, mothers undergo a plethora of mind and body transitions. Hormone changes are commonplace, bringing on fatigue, mood swings, forgetfulness, and trouble sleeping.

Because mothers are expectantly hormonal and sometimes “off” during pregnancy, symptoms of a more serious mental health issue may be brushed off.

About 60% of women with depressive symptoms do not receive a clinical diagnosis, and 50% of those who are diagnosed don’t receive any treatment.

The adverse effects of untreated PPD not only impact mothers, but their babies too. For mothers experiencing peripartum depression, it can result in significant deficits of child’s development in the womb and post-birth.

When PPD goes untreated, mothers can struggle to bond with their baby and in some cases may develop intentions to harm themselves or their child.