Understanding Perinatal Mental Health: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Pregnancy and childbirth are life-altering moments that can be incredibly stressful for women and their partners. As a result, many women may experience a period of poor mental health or a worsening of existing mental health conditions. It's estimated that 80% of new mothers experience postpartum melancholy, while 20% suffer from a perinatal mood, anxiety, or mental health disorder. Perinatal mental illness is a psychiatric disorder that occurs during pregnancy and up to one year after delivery.

Unfortunately, there is often a stigma surrounding those who talk about it, especially with first-time mothers and pregnant women. It's important to understand the symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mental health problems in order to get the help needed. The Northwell Health Perinatal Program is here to help women be happier, healthier, and prepared to raise newborns in their families. Let's start by understanding why women may be more susceptible to mental illness than men, and then discuss common perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and share Moreland's resources and support for her journey to emotional health.

Research on perinatal mental health typically examines common non-psychotic perinatal mental disorders (CPMD), with most studies focusing on anxiety and depression. Screening and treatment are widely recommended but are unevenly implemented, and policies and funding do not adequately support the mental health of people of child-bearing age. A systematic review of studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries found associations between perinatal mental health problems and preterm birth, low birth weight, impaired postnatal growth of infants, insecurity of attachment between baby and mother, and suboptimal breastfeeding practices. The authors thank the Health Affairs team for recognizing the importance of raising awareness about and treating perinatal mental health conditions, which are a major public health problem.

The authors also recognize and pay tribute to women and families affected by these diseases, in particular to first-time mothers who have ended their lives suffering from perinatal mental health problems.

Jeanette Kunzler
Jeanette Kunzler

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