Co-Occurring Disorders in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Co-Occurring Disorders in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Pregnancy and postpartum are supposed to be times of great promise and hope. For many women, holding their infant for the first time is the best feeling in the world. What if a woman doesn’t feel that way, though? What if a new mother has trouble connecting to her baby or feels so depressed that the world seems dull and gray?

For about ten to 15% of women, postpartum depression is very real. One in seven women will experience postpartum depression symptoms after giving birth. If left untreated, the effects that postpartum depression can have on both the mother and the infant can be devastating.

That is why early diagnosis is critical. In some cases, doctors may be able to recognize symptoms of this disorder during pregnancy. Some women may even have mental health issues before pregnancy that make them more likely to experience postpartum depression and anxiety. Fortunately, good support programs can help foster emotional regulation and problem-solving skills for mothers and their families.

Women’s Experiences During Pregnancy and Postpartum Periods

Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are part of a larger category of mental illness known as postpartum mood disorders. Pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders can go hand in hand for a significant percentage of women. In some cases, the mood disorder can even manifest in postpartum psychosis.

Like any other mental health condition, pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders can co-occur with other illnesses. Women who already experience issues with mental wellness, such as anxiety disorders, diagnosed depression, or even mood disorders, may be more likely to experience postpartum mental health distress.

Some symptoms may overlap. That is why it is important for women to discuss their mental health concerns with their pregnancy care team. This allows the doctors and medical staff to assess a woman’s current condition and note any new symptoms that develop. In doing so, they can address her specific needs and symptoms as they appear.

Mood Disorders in Pregnancy and Postpartum Periods

During the pregnancy and postpartum periods, women may begin experiencing unusual mental wellness symptoms. These can manifest as a host of psychiatric disorders unique to the period of pregnancy and postpartum. While these disorders may present similar symptoms, they are very different. Some of these include:

  • Postpartum depression (PPD): This disorder is generally characterized by extreme sadness and exhaustion. Some women may also experience anxiety as a symptom.
  • Postpartum anxiety: Anxiety after giving birth may result in feelings of mania and mood swings.

Another disorder that women might experience is postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (PP-OCD). Women can also experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PP-PTSD) and postpartum bipolar disorder. These conditions may occur in women who already experience symptoms of these illnesses prior or pregnancy. The perinatal period may worsen these symptoms.

Treating Postpartum Disorders

Timely interventions are often the best way to treat mental health disorders that occur during the pregnancy and postpartum period. When a woman’s care team knows she is in distress, they can help her through it. However, often the shame and stigma of these feelings keep women from talking to their doctors.

It is completely normal for women to experience mental health changes during pregnancy and postpartum. In fact, it is so normal that treatment for it is usually easily accessible through one’s usual health care providers and facilities. Despite the stigma of coming forward, it is better for the new mother and newborn baby to talk openly about pregnancy and postpartum mental illness.

Once a woman has talked to their care team about the different symptoms she is feeling, the team can develop a treatment plan that works for her. This might include engaging in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, and medication management. The focus will be on holistic care, healing her mind and body so she can experience the joys of new motherhood.

Early Intervention Matters in Pregnancy and Postpartum

Though it is something that is not regularly discussed, the period of pregnancy and postpartum can be critical times for mental health. It is during this period that women experience biological and hormonal changes. This can lead to emotional and psychological responses and stresses that manifest as mental disorders.

Early intervention can be the key to lessening the impact of postpartum disorders on new mothers. When doctors are able to diagnose and treat disorders before or during pregnancy, they can ensure patients receive timely interventions, develop coping strategies, and establish a support network.

Seeking Treatment During Pregnancy and Postpartum

At First Steps Recovery, we know how hard taking that first step can be for anyone. Regardless of whether you are facing treatment for substance use or mental health disorders, we stand with you.

Admitting to a problem with substance use can be challenging for anyone. Women who are pregnant face special stigmas. They may fear for their child and their well-being. At First Steps Recovery, our mission is to help women find that place of safety and health for themselves and their child, no matter where they are in life.

During pregnancy, specialized care is important. The best thing for the safety of a mother and child during pregnancy and postpartum is to develop the right treatment program. Detox and recovery during pregnancy are possible.

The Hope in Letting a Care Team Guide Postpartum Recovery

Hope is perhaps the single strongest guiding force in the world. It is what brings the new mother into First Steps Recovery. Hope brings in the expectant mother who wants to have a better life for herself and her child.

At First Steps Recovery, we guide mothers through pregnancy and postpartum treatment. Our care plan will help your family grow, two tiny hands and feet at a time. Entrusting our care team to provide comprehensive support, including medical assistance and holistic care, makes all the difference in the world.

The pregnancy and postpartum periods are some of the most life-changing periods some of us will ever face. Only new mothers can ever know the experience of carrying a life in their womb and giving birth. The biological changes that occur during these experiences can wreak havoc on hormones and leave women feeling emotionally and psychologically wrought. At First Steps Recovery, we support mothers and their families who face mental health crises during pregnancy and postpartum. Our evidence-based treatments and holistic care can help new mothers to find the emotional regulation they need to overcome psychiatric disorders that occur during and after pregnancy. If you are experiencing postpartum symptoms, call First Steps today at (844) 489-0836.

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