What Is Maternal Depression?
It’s estimated that 1 in 10 pregnant women and 13 percent of new mothers experience depression. Maternal depression is a mood disorder that begins before or immediately after childbirth.
It affects a mother’s ability to adequately care for her young child. This inability to meet a child’s basic needs can lead to long-term, adverse affects on his health and well-being.
Mothers who suffer from maternal depression are less likely to implement safety measures in the home, such as the use of child safety gates, electrical outlet covers and car seats.
Babies with depressed mothers are also less likely to have routines in place, such as established eating and sleeping times.
Early detection of maternal depression can be difficult to diagnose, as a lot of pregnancy and depression symptoms are the same.
Some of these symptoms include fatigue, crying, hopelessness, anxiety, problems concentrating, changes in appetite, sleeping difficulty and lack of interest in daily activities.
Eighty percent of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” but this is not maternal depression. These conditions have some of the same symptoms, but the “baby blues” normally goes away after a couple weeks. Maternal depression lasts much longer.
A small percentage of mothers (2 per 1000) who experience depression can have what is called postpartum psychosis.
This condition produces hallucinations, delusions, anger, paranoia, restlessness, suicidal and homicidal thoughts, voices and delusions. Postpartum psychosis requires a mother to be immediately hospitalized to prevent her from harming her baby and herself.
Treatments for maternal depression can include a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Changes in lifestyle–such as getting enough rest, reducing stress, exercise and eating a healthy diet–can also help manage maternal depression symptoms.