Bringing a child into the world can be a wonderful journey, but it doesn’t come without significant hurdles, especially when it comes to your mental health. Consider this — 1 in 5 Americans struggle with mental health issues in any given year, and up to 20% of women face mood and anxiety disorders during and after pregnancy.
At Southern Crescent Women’s HealthCare, our team is devoted to partnering with women during their pregnancies not only to look after the physical health of both mom and child, but also to ensure that a mother’s mental healthcare needs aren’t overlooked. All too often, mental health disorders take a backseat to the many other pressing issues that come with pregnancy, childbirth, and taking care of a newborn.
We feel, however, that physical and mental healthcare needs are equally important when creating the family of your dreams, which is why we’ve pulled together the following information on the effects of pregnancy on your mental health.
A matter of hormones
While you’re pregnant, and for a few months afterward, your hormone levels fluctuate wildly as they marshall your body’s many different systems to facilitate development, delivery, and the subsequent nourishment of your child. And there are few areas of your health that aren’t somehow affected by your hormones during this time — from the cardiovascular system to lactation.
But what may not be so obvious is the impact that these hormones have on the function of your brain. When your hormone levels drop precipitously and rise just as quickly, these shifts can spur chemical changes in your brain that often lead to mood swings and anxiety in mild cases, and severe depression in more extreme cases.
While mood changes are part and parcel of pregnancy and early motherhood — you may find yourself excessively emotional, crying one minute and laughing the next — sustained problems from mood disorders are a different matter.
Know the signs
As we mentioned above, mood swings are nothing to be alarmed about. Not only are your hormones taking you on a roller coaster ride, you may be facing other issues like sleep deprivation that can wreak havoc on your state of mind.
But these ups and downs are usually temporary and can come and go rapidly. What concerns us more are mood disorders that settle in during your pregnancy and early motherhood and don’t leave, characterized by ongoing:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of being constantly overwhelmed
- Frequent or excessive anxiety or panic attacks
- Persistent and nagging doubt about your capabilities as a mother
- Loss of interest in the world around you
Mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression can even cause physical side effects like excessive fatigue, body aches, and headaches.
When is it postpartum depression?
One of the major concerns we have with new mothers is postpartum depression. While many new mothers (in fact, up to 80%) experience a period widely known as the “baby blues,” this is usually short-lived and clears up within a week or two. If you’re still dealing with the symptoms outlined in the section above after a few weeks, you may be dealing with postpartum depression, which affects one out of every nine women in the United States.
Protecting your mental health
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of depression or anxiety (or you simply just don’t feel like yourself), we urge you to share this with us. Our compassionate team understands the many issues that women face during pregnancy and early motherhood — physical, mental, and emotional — and we can help you figure out whether your problem is one that bears closer attention and intervention.
In addition, let us know if you’ve had experience with mental health issues in the past so we can monitor your health closely during your pregnancy. And if you’re on medications, we can talk about any adjustments we need to make while also safeguarding your mental health.
Ultimately, our goal is that you and your child enjoy this beautiful time together, and we will work tirelessly to that end. If you have any questions, please call one of our offices in Fayetteville, Newnan, and Stockbridge, Georgia, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.