Maternal anxiety, maternal depression: Signs, risk factors, tips to overcome it | Health - Hindustan Times

Maternal anxiety, maternal depression: Signs, risk factors for moms during pregnancy or after birth, tips to overcome it

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
May 14, 2023 11:19 AM IST

This Mother's Day 2023, here's all you need to know about maternal anxiety or maternal depression and expert tips for mothers to overcome it

As Potterheads, we truly believed when Albus Dumbledore said, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” and we want to convey the same this Mother's Day as these are the times when maternal anxiety or maternal depression are the most common complications of childbirth, impacting up to 1 in 5 women, yet they are not universally screened for, nor treated and if left untreated could lead to serious adverse maternal outcomes. It is no secret that pregnancy and a new baby can bring a range of emotions where many women feel overwhelmed, sad or anxious at different times during their pregnancy and even after the baby is born.

Maternal anxiety, maternal depression: Signs, risk factors for moms during pregnancy or after birth, tips to overcome it (Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash)
Maternal anxiety, maternal depression: Signs, risk factors for moms during pregnancy or after birth, tips to overcome it (Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Seema Sharma, Associate Director and Dr Silvi Dogra, Junior Consultant of Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals in Chandigarh, revealed, “For many women, these feelings go away on their own. But for some women, these emotions are more serious and may stay for some time.And despite the many joys of motherhood, the tough parts can really take their toll on a new mum’s mental health. Thanks to a boom in new mothers using social media to speak candidly about their maternal mental health, the ball has started rolling - but there's still a long way to go when it comes to addressing and treating maternal maternal health conditions.”

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They added, “People used to think that the key trigger for postnatal depression was a hormonal shift. However, many women have those shifts and don’t develop postnatal depression, and many don’t have those hormonal changes, yet they do develop postnatal depression. Few other key triggers for postnatal depression are: exhaustion, persistent crying, feeling unsupported or incompetent, social comparison with other new mum's.”

Signs and symptoms:

According to the health experts, following are the signs that someone could be struggling with maternal mental health problems:

  • 1.Sadness-being tearful, feeling regretful or even despondent.
  • 2.Nagging guilt-feeling like you’re the worst parent in the world or that your baby would be better off without you.
  • 3.Internal criticism-the constant feeling of “Why did I do that?” or “I’m such a failure".
  • 4.Intrusive thoughts-worrying that the baby will get hurt.
  • 5.Irritability
  • 6.Loss of interest in the activities you used to enjoy
  • 7.Compulsive behaviors (checking your sleeping baby over and over again)
  • 8.Desire to run away
  • 9.Foggy or having trouble completing tasks

Identifying risk factors for depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after birth:

Dr Seema Sharma and Dr Silvi Dogra insisted that depression​ and anxiety during pregnancy or after birth can happen to anyone however, several factors make some women more likely than others to experience one or both of these conditions. These include:

  • A history of depression or anxiety.
  • Family history of depression or anxiety
  • A difficult pregnancy or birth experience
  • Giving birth to twins or other multiples
  • Experiencing problems in your relationship with your partner
  • Experiencing financial problems
  • Receiving little or no support from family or friends to help you care for your baby
  • Unplanned pregnancy

Can depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after the birth affect the baby?

Dr Seema Sharma and Dr Silvi Dogra answered, “Yes this can affect the baby directly or indirectly. Early mother-child bonding is important for baby's development and becoming close to the baby is a big part of that bonding. With depression or anxiety during pregnancy or after birth, it can be hard to become close to the baby.One may not be able to respond to baby's needs. Early treatment is important for you, your baby. The sooner you start, the more quickly you will start to feel better.”

Treatments for Maternal Anxiety or Depression:

Dr Seema Sharma and Dr Silvi Dogra highlighted that depression and anxiety will not go away on their own but with treatment, there is hope. They suggested:

  1. Counseling/"Talk Therapy"-Some women find it helpful to talk about their concerns or feelings with a mental health provider. Discussing the issues can fetch solutions to help ease the depression or anxiety.
  2. Connect with other new moms.
  3. Make time for yourself.
  4. Do something you enjoy - Whether it is listening to music, reading a book, or watching a favorite movie, take a bit of time each day to do something you enjoy.
  5. Be realistic - You don't have to do everything. Just do what you can and leave the rest.
  6. Ask for help - Don't be afraid to ask for help from family and friends, whether it's caring for the baby or doing household chores.
  7. Rest when the baby rests - Sleep is just as important for you as it is for the baby. Sleep when the baby sleeps, during naps and at night.
  8. Be with others.​ Seek out other adults-family and friends, who can provide comfort and company.
  9. Several medications can treat depression and anxiety effectively and are safe for pregnant women and for breastfeeding moms and their babies. A health care provider can prescribe medications that may be right for you.

Family, society and primary health care provider have a critical role to play to help mothers through this phase of anxiety and depression and halt the process by providing the required help and prevent its worst outcomes.

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