Mood Disorders and Pregnancy

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by Jake McKenna Ibarra


Each year 15 to 20% of women experience postpartum depression and 10% of men can experience paternal postpartum depression. 70 to 80% of postpartum moms experience baby blues.


One in five Americans have a mental illness diagnosis with many afraid to seek treatment or confide in loved ones for fear of discrimination. The postpartum diagnosis mood disorder is often diagnosed in women with no history of mental illness. While the stigma of a mood disorder is misunderstood in general it is really confusing when a mother delivers a baby. Especially a healthy baby.


In the last several years several celebrity moms spoke up about their struggles with postpartum mood disorders. Brooke Shields wrote about her struggles in her 2006 biography “Down came the rain“. After the 2014 birth of her daughter actress Hayden Panettiere suffered from postpartum depression and spoke publicly to let other mothers know they are not alone.

What is a mood disorder? The short answer is a mood disorder is an increase or decrease in one’s mood for an extended period of time.

What a mood disorder is not is baby blues. Up to 80% of women experience “baby blues”. The blues is a 2-3 week postpartum period where moms body is recovering from birth. She might be a bit over sensitive, over tired, and weepy. If this last longer than 3 weeks it’s a sign something else is going on with mom.


Depression: marked by sadness, you might feel hopeless, lethargic, and insignificant. Often induced and exacerbated by hormonal changes caused by pregnancy and a pregnancy loss. Depression arises during pregnancy as well as postpartum.


Anxiety: during pregnancy and postpartum are often accompanied by physical attributes which can lead to antenatal anxiety . While most of us feel anxious from time to time perinatal anxiety may cause interference with your daily routines such as leaving your house and social situations.

OCD: an OCD diagnosis during pregnancy is referred to as perinatal OCD or postpartum OCD after birth. OCD is marked by obsessive behavior and rituals such as washing your hands over and over. It is triggered during pregnancy by fear of harming the baby (accidentally or intentionally) or illness.


Post traumatic stress disorder: Pregnancy related PTSD diagnosis are a lot more common than you may think. Some labors last for days, and may result in an emergency cesarean section, a major surgery, after 72 hours of labor. Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a study and pregnant women living with PTSD are 35% more likely to deliver a premature baby. A full term birth with a long and complicated labor might produce a healthy, live baby but the aftermath of the pregnancy and delivery itself might continue to impact mom. The diagnosis may confuse friends and family. How can YOU have PTSD? You didn’t go to war. There is a misconception about who is or isn’t a candidate which is yet another barrier in providing support and treatment for those suffering from a mood disorder.


Bipolar mood disorder and pregnancy: a bipolar diagnosis impacts standard treatment options as many of the prescribed medications are unsafe during pregnancy. Certain medications may cause developmental delays and heart defects. Women with a bipolar diagnosis are up to 10 times more likely to experience a manic episode during pregnancy and postpartum.


Pregnancy induced postpartum psychosis: a severe form of depression requiring immediate medical attention and possible hospitalization and medication.


There are countless women all over the world who had no prior history of mental illness or mood disorder until pregnancy. No patterns exist in regard to pregnancy related mood disorders. Your age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status bear no weight statistically.


The University of North Carolina has the only perinatal psychiatric inpatient unit in the country. The wait list includes patients from almost all 50 states and the facility only has seven beds. The wait list is indicative we need to make changes and make them fast. Should pediatricians screen mom for mood disorders during baby’s well check-up? Should all birth facilities initiate perinatal psychiatric care? The answer is an unequivocally: yes.


For more information on mood disorders visit postpartum support international at

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