Health Aware: Depression, anxiety in new moms common and treatable
Is the most common pregnancy complication:
c. preeclampsia or
d. none of the above?
The answer is “d.”
All of these problems are trumped by depression and anxiety disorders, which affect 15 to 20 percent of women who are pregnant or new moms.
To some degree, weepiness and anxiety will visit as many as 80 percent of women during pregnancy and new motherhood, thanks to hormonal changes and sleep deprivation, among other factors. But it’s time to get help if these feelings last more than two weeks or are so strong it’s difficult to function.
Linda Huelke, a licensed clinical professional counselor at Linden Oaks at Edward, coordinates a program for early detection and treatment of postpartum depression, now referred to as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), which can occur any time from early pregnancy to a year after giving birth.
The program offers support groups, a “warm” line (calls answered within 24 hours) and free assessments for new or expectant parents who feel they need help.
Depression screening is also provided for nurses and other staff in Edward’s OB department and Newborn Intensive Care Unit, and for staff in the offices of area obstetricians and pediatricians.
“Early detection of these disorders means faster and more effective treatment,” Huelke says.
She suggests staying alert to common symptoms such as:
Sadness and irritability.
Excessive worry, even panic attacks.
Trouble concentrating or remembering.
Intrusive thoughts, such as repeated, upsetting thoughts regarding the baby.
Sleep and appetite problems.
In rare PMAD cases (1 to 2 percent). the woman may have delusions, such as believing her thoughts may be a secret message that only they can understand. This loss of touch with reality indicates the mom has postpartum psychosis, a severe but treatable medical emergency. This type of illness should not be confused with perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder, which presents no actual danger.
“One red flag for perinatal depression and anxiety is not being able to nap while the baby is sleeping,” Huelke says. “Instead, these moms are finishing all the laundry, thoroughly cleaning the house, or unsuccessfully attempting to nap.”
Woodridge resident Jan (not her real name), 34, who gave birth in January 2011, can relate to this behavior.
“I couldn’t put Jeremy down, even when he was sleeping, so I didn’t take the opportunity to nap,” she recalls. “I was prepared for some depression after the baby was born, but not for the intense anxiety.”
Jan’s symptoms included panic attacks, intrusive thoughts, some suicidal thoughts and a disinterest in food. She lost 30 pounds in 10 days.
One of the Edward lactation consultants who was trained in depression screening put Jan in touch with Huelke, who helped Jan line up the right resources.
She went to a psychiatrist, who put her on anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications.
She also went for therapy twice a week. Jan has also been active in Edward’s Nurturing Moms support group for post-partum depression and anxiety.
“I felt pretty good at three months, and at one year, and I’m back to normal,” Jan says. “Women need to know that there’s no shame in these feelings — including having trouble bonding with your baby. It’s biological and highly treatable.”
To learn more about help for PMAD, contact Linden Oaks Resource and Referral for New and Expectant Parents, 630-305-5086 or visit www.edward.org/postpartumdepression.
Health Aware is courtesy of