SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – We’ve all heard of postpartum depression -- one in seven new moms experience hormonal changes that send them spiraling into depression after giving birth -- but it just doesn’t happen after the baby is born.
There is an entire spectrum of mood swings, called peripartum mood disorders, that impacts women before and after delivery. Add on a global pandemic, election, and some wild weather events, and more new moms are feeling the effect.
Brittany James is getting everything in place for the birth of her baby. It’s been a long, difficult road for her.
“We have lost five babies before, but one was a set of twins,” said James.
A few years after adopting little McKinley, they got the good news. But pregnancy plus the threat of COVID sent Brittany into a panic.
“I’m scared. What’s going to happen? I was just scared. And I still am. I’ve cried to my husband. I’ve cried to my mom that I’m just scared something’s going to happen,” said James.
Dr. Helen Feltovich says that anxiety can manifest in several different ways. Peripartum mood disorders can start after a woman first learns she is pregnant. Once the baby is born, new moms can suffer postpartum anxiety -- excessively worrying and being terrified of hurting the baby.
“I think people are having a hard time separating what is sort of normal baseline anxiety from something that we actually can treat, which is peripartum mood disorders,” said Feltovich, who works in maternal-fetal medicine at Intermountain Healthcare.
More than half of new moms experience baby blues. If these feelings do become extreme, it can become postpartum depression. “This forced isolation situation and the fear of infection are just really escalating these symptoms,” Feltovich said.
The doctor stresses these feelings are not normal.
“They’re saying to themselves, ‘Well, everybody feels this way right now. This isn’t really a problem’ and that is actually a big problem,” Feltovich said.
Brittany worked through her fears with talk therapy and is now enjoying her new baby boy Coleson -- born healthy, happy and absolutely perfect.
While medication is an option to treat peripartum mood disorders, many expectant and new moms can be treated with talk therapy, psychotherapy and behavioral therapy. Most hospitals provide virtual groups as well and social media support groups.
Most importantly, don’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling and to ask questions. The world is uncertain right now, help is everywhere, and all you have to do is ask.