The Most Common Complications of Childbirth

by Jaime Filler, LMFT


1 out of 7 new moms experience a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder. In fact, perinatal depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth. However, it's not being talked about with (or between) new moms, leaving these women to suffer in silence. It's time we learned about these conditions and the factors that can put a mom at a higher risk.

 

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Prevalence

85% of childbearing women experience significant distress following pregnancy, yet as a society we often do not talk about perinatal distress.


Baby Blues

  • 80% experience the “Baby Blues”

  • Baby blues typically occurs a week after delivery and will self-resolve within 2-3 weeks.

  • Common symptoms of the Blues are: tearfulness, irritability, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

  • 15-20% of moms experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

  • Depression, Anxiety, OCD and PTSD are the most common

  • Onset can be anytime within the first year

  • Most common onset is 2-3 months after delivery

  • Perinatal depression and anxiety are the most common complications of childbirth.

  • 10% of DADS/Partners will experience anxiety or depression following the birth of a

  • child. In fact, if a mom is experiencing depression or anxiety, the rate for dads/partners goes up to 50%.


Risk

Perinatal depression and anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of social class, race, and even gender.

Common Triggers: rapid weaning, hormonal birth control, increased family stress (going back to work, illness/hospitalization, loss/grief)


Risk Factor Check List:

  1. It’s hard for me to ask for help.

  2. I’ve had trouble with hormones and moods, especially before my period.

  3. I was depressed or anxious after my last baby or during my pregnancy.

  4. I’ve been depressed or anxious in the past.

  5. My mother, sister, or aunt was depressed after her baby was born.

  6. Sometimes it’s hard to slow down: I don’t need to sleep, have lots of new ideas, and feel very restless.

  7. My family is far away and I don’t have many friends nearby.

  8. I don’t have the money, food or housing I need.

If you have three or more risk factors, you are more likely to have depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum. An additional risk factor is if you have experienced past sexual abuse or trauma. Often, those feelings will resurface during pregnancy or after child birth.

 

Symptoms

  • Depression: Sad, crying, loss of appetite, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, anger or irritability

  • Anxiety: Panic attacks, insomnia, fears, excessive worry, loss of appetite

  • OCD: Intrusive thoughts or images (very disturbing to mother), hypervigilance, checking, avoiding harm or triggers (ex. Hiding knives)

  • PTSD: Often following a traumatic birth, or baby in the NICU. Re-experiencing traumatic event, increased anxiety, panic

  • Psychosis: Occurs 1-2 in 1000 and usually starts 2-3 weeks after baby is born. Confusion, erratic behavior, rapid shifts in mood, delusions or hallucinations.

 

Prognosis

The quicker the symptoms are addressed, the quicker you will feel better.

With help, these conditions are treatable. Talk to your doctor or midwife, see a therapist who has specialized training in maternal mental health, attend a support group. DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE! You are NOT ALONE!! Immediate help is available to you.

 

Pregnancy and Postpartum Support

We help you to identify the important people in your village, and how they can help you once your baby is here.

We strongly believe in a proactive, preventative approach to help you build up your resources and help you develop a postpartum plan for wellness before your baby arrives. Develop a concrete plan to follow once your baby is here. Your plan should include realistic ways to make sure you are getting physical activity, meet your nutritional needs, make sure you are getting some sleep and rest.

Talk with your partner about your expectations for yourself and each other in your new roles as parents. Identify ways that you can continue to connect as a couple and find time to make sure your relationship is getting the attention it needs.

And, if despite your efforts, you do experience significant distress, we provide you with resources. We’ll help you establish a relationship with a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health. Often if you are suffering, the last thing you want to do is research and meet a new therapist. We can help!

 

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