EEEEEEEE!!!! So happy for Britney Spears! I hope her AMA pregnancy goes super smoothly and she and her baby are healthy and happy!
When Britney announced her pregnancy on social media this week, she brought up that she had struggled with perinatal depression with her previous pregnancies. I appreciate when celebrities discuss health issues openly - especially mental health issues - because it shines a light on common problems that might not otherwise be so widely discussed or understood. Let's really look at what is going on with perinatal depression.
What is Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression includes major and minor depressive episodes that occur during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after delivery (postpartum depression), and is one of the most common medical complications during pregnancy/postpartum period. It affects one in seven women. It is important to identify perinatal depression because if left untreated, it can have devastating effects.
What are some symptoms of Perinatal Depression?
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Fatigue or abnormal decrease in energy
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping
- Abnormal appetite, weight changes, or both
- Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the new baby
- Persistent doubts about the ability to care for the new baby
- Thoughts about death, suicide, or harming oneself or the baby
What are some risk factors for Perinatal Depression?
It is important to remember that perinatal depression can affect any woman no matter her circumstances, but there are some risks that lead to higher rates of perinatal depression:
- History of anxiety or depression
- High levels of stress and/or financial concerns
- Unintended pregnancy
- Domestic violence
- Lack of social/relationship support
- Traumatic birth experience
- NICU admission for infant
- Breastfeeding problems
How is perinatal depression diagnosed?
Perinatal depression often goes unrecognized because changes in sleep, appetite, and libido may be attributed to normal pregnancy and postpartum changes. In addition to health care providers not recognizing such symptoms, women may be reluctant to report changes in their mood. Therefore, it is important for obstetrician–gynecologists and other obstetric care providers to ask the pregnant or postpartum patient about her mood. And it is important as patients to bring it up! It is always ok to discuss how you are feeling.
There are several well-studied screening tools available online and in your doctor's office for depression. These can usually be administered in a few short minutes.
What are treatment options for Perinatal Depression?
Treatment for perinatal depression often includes therapy, medications, or a combination of the two. Your health care provider can help you determine what would be the best course of action for you.
What can family and friends do to help?
It is important to understand that depression is a medical condition that impacts the mother, the child, and the family. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of perinatal depression in a new mother. Treatment is central to recovery. Family members can encourage the mother to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
Support or advocacy groups can offer a good source of support and information. One example of this type of group is Postpartum Support International.
If You Know Someone in Crisis:
- Dial 911 in an emergency.
- Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are confidential. To use the Lifeline Chat, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.
- Contact the Crisis Text Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by texting HELLO to 741741.