Maternal depression, also referred to as perinatal depression, affects many mothers. With the establishment of National Maternal Depression Awareness Month in May, mothers are expected to receive more attention for this mental health issue.
There are four recognized types of maternal depression: prenatal depression, “baby blues,” postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, according to a fact sheet by the New York State Department of Health and Office of Mental Health. Although all types have similar symptoms, the prevalence rates, some symptoms and time frame of the depressions differ. Some studies also explore postpartum major depression, which is similar to major depression except after pregnancy.
For example, “baby blues” is the least severe, and usually lasts only about two weeks maximum after delivery. It is the most common, and as many as 80 percent of new mothers suffer from “baby blues,” according to the fact sheet. Some symptoms include exhaustion, crying, sleep problems, anxiety and mood fluctuations.
Postpartum depression is becoming more well-known, and it affects 10 to 20 percent of new mothers, according to the fact sheet. Symptoms must last more than two weeks to be considered PPD and not just “baby blues.” There are also more symptoms associated with PPD, such as feeling inadequate or guilty, feeling sad constantly, feeling suicidal, not attaching or bonding to the baby, overly worrying about the baby or not being interested at all in the baby.
Lucy Puryear, a psychiatrist in private practice who specializes in reproductive mental health, is president of Postpartum Support International. She said in an email that the organization officially started the awareness month for the first time this year, and it’s the first time this type of month has been declared by a national organization. The campaign for the month is “Speak Up When You’re Down.”
“We want women who are feeling depressed, blue, or ‘down’ to have the courage and support to let someone know,” Puryear said. “There is help and lots of support out there. Maternal depression does not have to be a silent illness.”