I can’t believe that it’s been 10 years since we at the PPD Alliance of Illinois first worked with an Illinois Governor to proclaim May as Perinatal Mood Disorders Awareness Month. We choose May as it is home to Mother’s Day, and the Alliance’s mission is to educate mamas and their families and friends about the nature of this illness.
Approximately 15% of pregnant women and 15% – 20% of new mothers experience major or minor depression in the first year after giving birth. Methodological differences among the studies make the actual prevalence rate unclear. Also, this are statistics from women reporting how they feel, the actual number is probably much higher.
The proclamation started as Postpartum Depression Awareness Month but over the past few years there has been more recognition that mood disorders cover a wide spectrum, including pregnancy depression and anxiety, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder and postpartum psychosis. We now use the term perinatal as that covers both pregnancy and postpartum up to a year after childbirth.
Symptoms differ for everyone but may include:
•Many worries and panic attacks
•Feelings of sadness, fear, anger and guilt
•Possible thoughts of harming the baby or oneself
•Lack of interest in the baby
•Appetite & Sleep Disturbance
•Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Since the first proclamation in 2004 we have seen more research and much more recognition of amongst hospitals and healthcare professionals about the symptoms of perinatal mood disorders and also the need for screening new moms for depression symptoms. More information is given to new moms when they leave hospital and we have more support groups and professionals trained to help women.
Despite these advances and the prevalence of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, symptoms are still vastly under-detected by health care professionals and many women go without treatment. As I said earlier, we know now that many more pregnant women than we used to think experience anxiety and depression, but they often go undetected as professionals don’t know to ask about pregnancy emotional health. Women without medical insurance mental health benefits and those with lower economic status are also hugely under served. Lastly, we are still battling the stigma associated with maternal anxiety and depression.
Please share this post with everyone you know across Illinois to help us get more awareness so more women and their families reach out for help.