May is Maternal Mental Health Month Awareness Month. This is a good time for social workers and the public to become more educated on postpartum depression among women.
It is conservatively estimated that more than 600,000 women in the United States experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy or within a year of childbirth. In fact, postpartum depression is the top complication of childbirth.
According to National Association of Social Workers member Kimberley Zittel, PhD, MSW, author of Postpartum Mood Disorders: A Guide for Medical, Mental Health and Other Support Providers, sadness and depression that lasts longer than two weeks, increases in intensity over time, and negatively affects functioning can indicate a mental health issue that should be treated.
The research findings show conditions like postpartum depression can contribute to major long-lasting and life-threatening behavioral and mental health problems for women, children and families such as:
- Interfering with a mother’s ability to bond with her baby.
- Increasing instances of substance abuse, child abuse and neglect.
- Putting the partners of mothers at higher risk of also experiencing depression.
- Increasing the chances of suicide. Suicide is the leading killer of women in the first five years after they give birth.