Pregnancy & Postpartum Depression

Studies have shown that depression during pregnancy is as common as depression in the non-pregnant state. Despite the belief that pregnancy is often associated with a time of emotional well being and happiness, depression during pregnancy can, and does, occur.

Abdomen of pregnant womanOne point of concern when treating pregnant women with depression is the effect that standard antidepressant medications may have on the fetus or, in the case of new mothers, children who are breastfeeding. Both of these dilemnas are the focus of study in the UCLA Women's Research Program. More common may be the extreme mood swings associated with the postpartum, often associated with severe anxiety and panic attacks.

While "baby blues" occur for many new mothers and may last up to two weeks after prolonged or extreme feelings of depression are Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis are more severe mental disorders that can occur after childbirth. In extreme cases, there may be unrealistic thoughts known as delusions, concerning the newborn infant (e.g., baby is possessed by the devil, has special powers or is destined for a terrible fate).

What factors contribute to the likelihood of developing postpartum depression is a current area of focus of the UCLA Mood Disorders Research Program.

Postpartum blues

  • Common
  • Usually occurs 1-3 days postpartum
  • Resolves within one to two weeks

Postpartum depression

  • Usually begins 2-3 weeks postpartum
  • Resolves slowly without treatment

Postpartum psychosis

  • Rare
  • Rapidly changing state of confusion, agitation, and mood
  • Typically occurs 3-14 days postpartum
  • Delusions are common