Mental Health Before, During, & After Pregnancy

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Preparing for and welcoming a new child into your family can inspire feelings of joy and love. But sometimes, depression, anxiety, or even disturbing thoughts can appear. When this happens before, during, or for a year after delivery, it's called a perinatal mood disorder.

You may have never heard of perinatal mood disorder. But many new parents experience it. In fact, having mental health issues while having a baby:

  • Is the most common complication of pregnancy
  • Affects 1 in 5 pregnant people

For women who already experience mental health issues, this can make pregnancy seem impossible. But pre-pregnancy appointments can help you figure out strategies to get through pregnancy and beyond. 

What Are Perinatal Mood Disorders?

You’ve probably heard of postpartum depression. But emotional and mental health challenges can happen before you give birth, too. “Perinatal” refers to the time you’re pregnant and the first year after giving birth. The entire perinatal period is full of physical and mental changes and challenges.

Unexpected and difficult? Yes. But having a baby creates change and stress. If you’re struggling, you’re not abnormal, and you’re not alone.

Find Emotional Support at UVA Health

At UVA Health, you’ll find the treatment and support you need to get through this time. We have therapy, medication, and support dedicated to your experience.

UVA Health’s Perinatal Mental Health Clinic offers help for perinatal mood disorders. Some of the mental health conditions we treat include:

  • Postpartum depression (PPD) - Feeling overly depressed after giving birth
  • Postpartum anxiety (PPA) - Feeling overly anxious after giving birth
  • Postpartum psychosis - Experiencing hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, or significant behavior changes

More Than the Baby Blues

You might want to brush off postpartum depression and other difficult feelings as normal new parent issues. But these are serious conditions.

Ignoring them, or hoping they’ll get better overtime, can cause ongoing issues. Left untreated, perinatal mood disorders can go on for months or even years. This can cause bonding issues with your new child, ongoing mental health issues, and other health concerns.

Get a Pre-Pregnancy Consult

All patients can schedule a one-time pre-pregnancy consult. During this consult, we'll talk about your concerns, medications, and ways to protect your mental health.

Talking to someone before you get pregnant can help you avoid or prepare for problems that come up along the way.

Do You Need a Consult?

While anyone can develop a pregnancy-related mental health issue, some things do increase the chances. Those include: 

  • First-time parents
  • Between the ages of 18-24
  • Previously diagnosed with depression or anxiety
  • Having a traumatic birth
  • Having a child with health issues
  • Giving birth to twins

Pregnant or Postpartum? How to Get a Diagnosis

Perinatal mood disorders can sneak up on you. Waiting for a regular postpartum visit to get diagnosed can delay treatment. If you’re a parent who has given birth within the previous year, you don’t need a referral to be seen.