State of New Jersey. Department of Health and Senior Services

perinatal mood disorders. speak up when you are down

For any woman experiencing a perinatal mood disorder (PMD), getting the right information is the first step to recovery.

 

What is a perinatal mood disorder (PMD)?

Between 10 percent and 20 percent of women develop a mood disorder during the perinatal period, which includes pregnancy and up to one year after delivery. These mood disorders are characterized by feelings of anxiety, sadness, depression, panic, frustration and confusion. They affect women of all ages and all racial, cultural and economic backgrounds. They range in severity from mild and transient to severe, requiring treatment. Mood disorders cause significant personal distress and adversely affect daily functioning.

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What causes PMD?

The exact causes are unknown. However, rapid hormonal changes and life stressors are believed to play a part. Illness, isolation, financial problems and poor partner support can create stress that negatively affects a woman's mental state. On the other hand, strong emotional, social and physical support, especially from family and friends, can play a major part in recovery.

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When should a doctor be consulted?

A woman should seek professional advice if she is at all concerned. She should not feel ashamed or fearful about talking to her healthcare provider. She can be assured that many women have similar experiences and that she is not to blame. Perinatal mood disorders are treatable. Medicines, talk therapies and support groups are effective and available. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the condition.

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What are the symptoms of PMDs?

Symptoms vary. Common signs of depression associated with PMDs can include feeling overwhelmed, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, changes in appetite, feeling hopeless, crying uncontrollably, feeling guilty or worthless, lack of interest in family and friends, lack of concentration, anxiety or irritability. In very rare cases (less than 0.2 percent), symptoms may include thoughts of harming the baby or oneself.

It is important to remember that when any of these symptoms persist, the sooner the mother gets treatment, the better the outcome.

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What is postpartum depression (PPD)?

Postpartum depression, also called postatal depression, is a perinatal mood disorder that affects about one in eight women after giving birth (thus postpartum). It is a form of depresssion that can occur up to one year after delivery. A new mother with PPD may experience any of the symptoms associated with PMDs

Most new mothers (60 percent to 80 percent) experience the baby blues, which involves feelings of sadness, anxiety, loneliness or moodiness that normally go away within a couple of weeks.

If symptoms last longer, professional help is often necessary and a woman should see her healthcare provider.

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How long will PPD last? Will it go away on its own?

Left untreated, PPD can persist for up to two years. Even at two years, some depressed women will not recover and continue with chronic symptoms. When adequately treated, most woman respond well in two to four weeks and feel greatly improved and on the road to recovery in six to eight weeks.

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Is PPD biological, psychological or hormonal?

All three factors appear to be involved. Biologically, hormones seem to play a part in causing PPD. Sometimes women develop a thyroid problem after giving birth, or may have a family history of depression. Women with PPD may also suffer from a neurochemical imbalance, most often involving serotonin, a brain chemical involved in regulating mood and behavior. Social and psychological issues such as the infant-mother relationship, changes in the marriage, relationships with other family members and career and work may also play a role.

No matter what causes a particular woman's postpartum depression, treatment is effective and available, and she should not hesitate to seek help and speak to her healthcare provider.

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How can family help?

Postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders affect the entire family. Family members may feel confused and worried about the mood and behavioral changes they see in the new or expectant mother. Often they recognize that a problem exists before the woman does. They can help her to identify the problem and encourage her to seek medical help. Family and friends can provide understanding, as well as emotional, social and physical support. They can provide childcare and take on daily responibilities that reduce stress. Their support will help the woman recover.

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What can a woman with PPD or another PMD do to cope?

  • Talk openly about feelings with her spouse, family, friends and healthcare provider.
  • Ask for help with baby care from friends and family.
  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet.
  • Exercise for more energy. Walking, which is a mild exercise, can help.
  • Join a postpartum depression support group, such as Postpartum Support International (PSI), Postpartum Education for Parents, National Association for Mothers or any of the 38 groups esatablished throughout the state. Contact information is available at www.njspeakup.gov or by calling 1-800-328-3838.

There is no need to struggle alone. Many new mothers feel out of control, but with help they get back on track and feel good again.

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What help is available in New Jersey for PPD and other PMDs?

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) offers a PPD helpline 1-800-328-3838 that operates 24 hours per day, seven days a week to provide resources and information to women and their families and friends. In addition, DHSS has a dedicated Web site that provides educational materials such as brochures, videos, books, support groups, FAQs and links to other helpful Web sites on postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.

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