Maternal health expert breaks down ‘baby blues’ and serious mental health conditions

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Maternal mental health, also known as perinatal mental health, refers to a mother’s overall emotional, social, and mental well-being, both during and after pregnancy, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, otherwise known as NAMI.

NAMI says as many as 1 in 5 women will have mood and anxiety disorders while pregnant, with the most common being depression, and only 10% of women will seek treatment for these concerns.

Not treating a mental health condition while pregnant can lead to health complications for the baby like premature birth, low birth weight, sleeping, and feeding troubles, and cognitive deficits; according to NAMI.

There are also risks for the mother like poor prenatal care, depression or other mental health disorders occurring after giving birth, and increased risk of substance use.

Casey Jones, Carolina Family, and Maternal Counseling Founder, told WITN, “What we know is, when they’re struggling, their partner is struggling. Statistics also say that we have about 1 in 10 non-birthing partners that will struggle and experience a mood or anxiety-based disorder. Some of that is based on their own and their things but a lot of that is, the prevalence is much higher when we have a birthing mother who is also struggling with perinatal mental health.”

As a result, Jones says that treatment is vital as the Association of American Medical Colleges reports that perinatal mental health conditions are the leading cause of maternal mortality – responsible for 23% of such deaths.

Following pregnancy, there can also be complications. Some women may experience what’s called “baby blues” which NAMI says is relatively common however, can be hard to distinguish the difference between baby blues and depression.

According to NAMI, Baby blues consist of unexplainable mood changes lasting less than 2 weeks after delivery, generally happy feelings, with some low mood. NAMI says depression consists of feeling sad, worthless, or hopeless, loss of interest or pleasure in life, hard time concentrating, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, and thoughts of harming self or the baby that all lasts for more than 2 weeks.

Jones encourages any mother or loved one to reach out to health professionals if these thoughts and feelings occur.

“My number one encouragement would be to do that. Reach out to your provider– a perinatally trained provider because even OBGYNs, they go to school to work with women and go through the birth process but have very limited mental health knowledge. So finding someone who is trained in this specifically to properly diagnose and treat you whether that’s through medication or therapy, finding a good provider through therapeutic support is valuable,” Jones told WITN.

Carolina Family and Maternal Counseling offers both online and in-person services, and there are also international services as well.