Mental Health Problems Affect Many Women After Childbirth
Complications from pregnancy and childbirth can have extraordinary mental and emotional effects on the mother, many which go undiagnosed.
Having a baby can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling new challenges. Alongside the late-night feedings and diaper changes, however, many women have to deal with mental health problems that their husbands do not. The "baby blues," where women experience bouts of crying and sadness in the week following childbirth, affects at least half of all mothers. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that 50–75% of women experience these symptoms. Up to 15% of those women will develop full-blown postpartum depression, with symptoms such as frequent crying, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. Those symptoms can last from a few weeks up to a full year. Part of what can be challenging about treating PPD is that it presents differently in different women. For some new mothers, it’s an intense anxiety about failing their new child, while for others it has more of the hallmarks of traditional, clinical depression (such as a lack of interest in usual activities and feelings of sadness). About 400,000 to 800,000 mothers in the U.S. suffer annually from PPD, though that number may be an underestimation. One study found that up to 50% of cases of PPD will go undiagnosed. Undiagnosed PPD affects women of color disproportionately. Only a single drug has been developed and approved to treat PPD in the U.S. Women are often treated with anti-depressants or talk therapy. Left untreated, PPD can greatly reduce a woman’s quality of life—and sometimes even end in suicide. And a new study found that women who experienced postpartum depression for several months were at a heightened risk of developing long-term, clinical depression that lingered for years. The researchers also found that a mother's depression could have negative effects on her kids: the children of women who suffered from this kind of prolonged depression were twice as likely to have behavioral problems as the children of women who did not.
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