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Perinatal Depression Program

PFSC works closely with NorthShore's Perinatal Depression Program, whose mission is to identify and support families at risk for perinatal depression. Their free, confidential hotline is available 24 hours a day to patients and their families for information and support. The hotline's number is 866.364.MOMS (866.364.6667).

While the birth of a baby can be a joyous time, many women may show signs of depression during pregnancy or after giving birth (known as perinatal depression).  There are different degrees of changes in mood during this time.  Most women (50-80%) experience the baby blues. These symptoms include:  

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

Women who have the baby blues feel happy most of the time but do experience these symptoms for a period of several days to two weeks after birth.  The baby blues is a very mild form of depression and may be caused by hormonal changes, disrupted sleep patterns and fatigue.

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 affects one of every ten women, and signs of depression can occur during pregnancy and up to one year after giving birth. 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 for perinatal depression 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 at the same time as their pregnancy or after birth

Perinatal depression treatment options include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy and hormone treatment. Hospitalization may be necessary in some cases, especially in cases of 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.

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

Unfortunately there is no prevention for perinatal depression. However, to help ease the burden during the transition of having a new baby at home it's important to plan ahead for your new arrival. Joining a new moms support group will let you know that you are not alone in the struggles women face with a newborn.  This will give you a chance to talk about your joys and frustrations, as well as hear from women in similar situations.  

Finally, it's important to contact your physician if you may be suffering from perinatal depression or postpartum psychosis.