Postpartum Depression and Maternal Mental Health

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mother and child Studies show that at least one in eight and as many as one in five women develop symptoms of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder within a year of giving birth. (Copyright: altanaka/Shutterstock)

Pam Belluck discusses her two-part series on maternal mental health and postpartum depression, “Mother’s Mind” in the New York Times. She speaks with women who’ve experienced mental health issues during and after pregnancy. A growing body of research shows that maternal mental illness is more common and varied than previously thought. She’ll be joined by Emily Guillermo whose story is featured in part one of the series. Part one is "Thinking of Ways to Harm Her," Part two is "After Baby, An Unraveling."


Pam Belluck and Emily Guillermo

Comments [10]

Jill McDonald from Norhtern New Jersey

When I had my third child back in 1977 in England, a friend in the same village had her first. Almost immediately we knew things were going wrong with her. She went from a happy new mother to the extremes of depression or elation. She was hospitalized for a time while they were sorting out meds and then she came home. Everything her husband - who was extremely caring and worried - did was wrong and she insisted he leave. Eventually when the baby was about a year old, my friend committed suicide. All this despite the fact that in England then, post-partum depression was fully recognized as being a genuine hormone based mental illness and that, as was the system, all new mothers were under the care of a health visitor who drops in to visit on a regular basis for the first couple of years to check that things are going OK and encourage visits to the free weekly clinics run by ones doctor. Since I have lived in the USA, I have been very upset on a number of occasions when new mothers who have harmed their babies rather than themselves have been treated as criminals rather than mentally ill. I am pleased to hear that finally this illness is being recognized

Jun. 27 2014 12:57 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Elizabeth from Brooklyn, thanks much for your honesty. The only way to a solution.

Jun. 27 2014 12:57 PM
Elizabeth from Brooklyn

This excellent show but brought to mind a similar issue that is very under-reported: babies with colic and the impact on parents. My first child was colicky which meant that he cried, seemingly in great pain, non-stop through the night unless he was held and rocked or in the "snuggly" (but only when the holder was standing up -- if you tried to slip down into a chair he woke up screaming again). He clearly was in great pain, and this is the only thing that soothed him. I remember standing by the window at 3 am thinking, in a complete fog of dispassionate exhaustion, that if I just tossed him out the window I could go to sleep -- there but for impulse control...The really hard part was that people did not know or understand about this and said really unhelpful things like: "but he can't help it", which of course, I knew -- the biggest help was my sister (a psychiatric nurse) who told me my scary feelings were normal and showed me a pamphlet with statements from other mothers going through this with equally heinous thoughts. Somehow, knowing I was not alone, was very helpful. BTW, the colic only lasted about a month (it seemed like months), and once it was gone, it was like it had never been -- he is now a happy, healthy 30-year-old!

Jun. 27 2014 12:49 PM
Clif from Manhattan

I am a new father of a 16 mo old. A few months ago he fell and bumped his head pretty good while on my watch. It has haunted me ever since and I find myself wondering if any damage was done. Each time I re-live the experience it is very visceral and intense and I feel very guilty.

So while there are clearly real gender-specific issues, I also think that this is not exclusive to women.

Jun. 27 2014 12:38 PM
georgina smith

In NJ by law mother's must be screened prior to discharge from the hospital.

Jun. 27 2014 12:37 PM
katrina from rockaway nj

Acupuncture acupuncture acupuncture!!! Very helpful for post partum (and antenatal) issues!!!

Jun. 27 2014 12:31 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Did Ms. Guillermo's difficulty in feeling love for her 2nd child also affect her ability to love her 1st child, even though she hadn't had any trouble before?

I'm sorry she had to go through that, esp. w/no recognition from her doctors, but I'm glad her husband was understanding & supportive. I hope Ms. Belluck's work will lead to greater recognition by medical personnel of these issues outside of the usual narrow definition. I think there needs to be a general review of how the medical profession restricts the definitions of both mental & physical illnesses. Too many people don't get treatment because, for example, women's heart attack symptoms can be different from men's, or "children don't get depression, so this child can't be depressed," even though the child has all the symptoms of depression.

Jun. 27 2014 12:30 PM
Rachel from Brooklyn

Is postpartum depression more common with stay at home moms?

Jun. 27 2014 12:26 PM
pina78 from So.Plainfield

Hospital I gave birth in, did screening for PD. I was in bad shape for about a month. They told me most of those depressions go away on it's own, but if I start to feel worse to ask for help. Luckily, my depression went on it's own after 3-4 weeks. I'm surprised other hospitals don't do screenings.

Jun. 27 2014 12:21 PM

To what extent is postpartum depression specific to the United States? Many other countries have far more established support networks for mothers who have just given birth, whether from family or from the government. It seems postpartum depression is a far greater problem in the US.

Jun. 27 2014 12:20 PM

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