Depression: More Than Just the "Baby Blues"

From excitement and joy to stress and fatigue, becoming a parent causes a wide range of feelings and emotions that can sometimes be overwhelming. The changes that parents – and particularly mothers – go through can have a big impact on feelings and moods. Many new parents undergo more highs and lows than usual. This is a common experience and extra support can be very helpful during this time.

However, some mothers experience depression. This is more than just feeling sad or being down. It is a serious condition that affects health and well-being for mothers, babies and their families. It can have a major impact on pregnancy, a baby’s development and relationships. It can have serious effects on older children and teenagers in the family as well.

Many mothers experience a change in mental health during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. More than 15 percent of women experience depression following childbirth. To emphasize the frequency and seriousness, the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas refers to depression as the No. 1 complication from childbirth.

What is perinatal depression?

You may have heard of maternal depression, prenatal depression, and postpartum depression. Perinatal depression is used to describe depression that occurs during pregnancy, following childbirth, or at any point during the first year postpartum.

Perinatal depression and other mood and anxiety disorders can result from changes in hormones, biological changes, excessive stress, or other factors. A history of mental health disorder(s), prior trauma, or adverse experiences can contribute to risk for depression and other mood and anxiety disorders as well.

Symptoms vary for everyone but they may include:

  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or numbness
  • Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
  • Lack of interest in baby or avoiding baby
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or anxiousness
  • Feelings of anger, irritability or resentment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Sleep disturbances - sleeping too much or too little
  • Possible thoughts of harming self or baby
  • Feeling that life is not worth living or thoughts of suicide

Getting help

It is very important to get help if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or finding it hard to cope with your feelings during pregnancy or following childbirth. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are treatable and you can recover.

Talk with your OB/GYN or your physician if you have one. All mothers should undergo screening for depression at a postpartum visit and be offered referrals for follow-up care if needed. You can also talk to your child’s pediatrician during a well-child checkup. Some insurers offer nurse helplines.

Women in need of more intensive treatment for postpartum depression should be referred to a provider of behavioral health services. For information on local behavioral health care providers, refer to the website of the Office of Mental Health Coordination of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, or call 2-1-1.

Women who receive prenatal care through Medicaid for Pregnant Women remain eligible for Medicaid benefits for 60 days after the birth of the baby. Medicaid will cover the postpartum visits during this time as well as medications and follow-up necessary for women who are diagnosed with postpartum depression.

Women who receive prenatal care through the CHIP-Perinatal program are eligible for two postpartum visits under the global prenatal care service package. The Healthy Texas Women program covers evaluation, medications, and follow-up visits for eligible women with a diagnosis of postpartum depression.

Talk to friends or family members you are close to and ask for additional support. Many hospitals and birthing clinics have new mother support groups or know how to access them. It is important to get help and support during pregnancy or after childbirth - for yourself and the well-being of your family.