Health Tips / Mental Health / Maternal Mental Health

Maternal Mental Health 

Anxiety and sadness can be more common during and after pregnancy. Sometimes called the “baby blues,” these feelings are normal and should pass within a few days. 

Postpartum depression is more intense and lasts longer. It can affect people of all cultures, ages and races. In fact, about 1 in 8 people who give birth experience postpartum depression

Before and after pregnancy is a time to pay attention to changes in your body and mood and talk to your doctor about how you are feeling. The good news is that there are many resources to support new parents mentally and emotionally.

Symptoms of maternal mental and emotional health issues

Pregnant people and new parents may have symptoms of common disorders such as depression and anxiety. The symptoms of postpartum depression are like those for depression, but may also include:

  • Crying more often than usual
  • Feelings of anger
  • Spending less time with loved ones
  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby

Types of maternal mental and emotional health issues

Changes in hormones (body chemicals that affects the body) during and after pregnancy can lead to major changes in mood, sleep patterns and emotions. While the “Baby Blues,” as they are sometimes called, can pass quickly and without too much concern, some new parents experience longer-lasting or more serious forms of depression. 

If you or a loved one is struggling emotionally after the birth of a child, talk to your doctor. Or, to be connected with a provider, call the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) ACCESS Call Center at 1-800-686-0101. (TTY for the hearing impaired - please call 711.)

Some of the types of pregnancy-related depression are:

  • Postpartum blues About 80 percent of people who give birth get mood swings and/or feelings of depression three to five days afterwards. These result from normal hormonal changes that happen to new mothers. That is why these symptoms are only considered a mental health disorder if they last more than two weeks.
  • Postpartum depression (PPD) Only happens after giving birth but has all the same symptoms as depression. Some symptoms are specific to mothering, such as obsessive fears about the baby’s health or thoughts of harming the baby. It can start any time after giving birth and last up to a year. Between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers get PPD. Take an online PPD screening from Mental Health America.
  • Birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) PTSD can be caused when someone feels their safety is threatened or they see someone else endangered. Birth-related PTSD can happen when a woman’s life is endangered during pregnancy or giving birth. Symptoms may include feelings of panic, numbness, detachment, sadness and fear. PTSD may also cause nightmares, flashbacks and disturbing memories of painful experiences.
  • Postpartum psychosis (PPP) Symptoms are like those of general psychosis. These can include delusions, paranoia, hallucinations, incoherence, memory loss and frantic activity. PPP is very rare: it only happens to about one-tenth of one percent of new mothers. However, it is very serious and requires a hospital stay until recovery.

For more details about these pregnancy and postpartum mental conditions, visit the Mental Health America website

Maternal mental health resources

Pregnancy and having a baby can cause changes to your body and your lifestyle. This can impact your mental state. Along with therapy, local resources for pregnant people and new parents can support your mental and physical health. These include getting ready for giving birth, new parent training, healthy eating, exercise and more. 

HPSM resources 

Staying healthy during pregnancy helps your baby be healthy. HPSM provides information about exercise, healthy eating and other ways to take good care of yourself during pregnancy. You may also be able to join HPSM’s Baby + Me program. Baby + Me supports the health of pregnant people, new moms and their babies.  

Find out how to get mental health care, learn about common mental health issues and find self-help resources