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Perinatal Depression

Perinatal Screening | Baby Blues | Perinatal Depression | Postpartum Psychosis | Getting Help | Resources

At NorthShore we care about the total wellness of new and expectant mothers, including both physical and emotional health. Having a baby can be a joyous time; it can also be a time when some women both during and after birth experience symptoms of depression and mood swings.

Perinatal Screening

At NorthShore, we are committed to taking preventative measures to screen for perinatal depression. As part of our program, a universal perinatal depression screening is administered to all patients who present for prenatal or postpartum care at our hospitals. This screening is completed twice: during the pregnancy and after delivery. All results are confidential and are reviewed by a credentialed mental health provider.

Depending on the results of the screen, patients may be called by the provider and complete a phone interview. From there appropriate referrals, resources and emergency measures will be provided.

Baby Blues

It is not uncommon for women to experience the “baby blues”—a very mild form of depression—for several days to a couple of weeks after child birth. The baby blues may be caused by hormonal changes, disrupted sleep patterns and fatigue. Women who suffer from the baby blues feel happy most of the time, but may experience the following symptoms:

  • Frequent crying spells
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Sadness about the baby
  • Irritability
  • Experience of overwhelming emotions

Perinatal Depression

However, some women experience more depressive symptoms, which can be a sign of a serious condition called perinatal depression (also known as postpartum depression when it occurs after birth). This potentially debilitating disease occurs in one of every ten women, and can happen during pregnancy and up to one year after delivery. Symptoms of perinatal depression include:

  • Being sad or anxious for more than a couple of weeks
  • Unable to sleep, even when you have the chance to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities
  • Crying a lot for no reason
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not being able to cope
  • Appetite changes - usually loss of appetite with weight loss
  • Feeling agitated
  • Fatigue, decreased energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Decreased concentration or ability to make decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Women at risk include:

  • Women who have experienced previous episodes of postpartum depression
  • Women with a history or current mood disorders (such as depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Women undergoing other stressful life events during or after pregnancy

Treatment options include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy and hormone treatment.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is extremely rare and usually has a rapid onset of symptoms. Women suffering from postpartum psychosis should seek help immediately. Signs of postpartum psychosis include:

  • Hallucinations (both visual and auditory)
  • Strong thoughts of suicide
  • Irrational behavior
  • Irrational speech
  • Thoughts of harming their child

Treatment options include psychotherapy, medications and hospitalization.

Getting Help

If you are someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, know that help is available. For residents of Illinois, we have a free, confidential 24-hour hotline—866.364.MOMS (6667) — to help you find the information, support and resources you need to get better.

Women living outside of Illinois can contact Postpartum Support International to find resources in their area.