Perinatal Mental Health

All families benefit from support during pregnancy and as they adjust to parenthood

Pregnancy and the first year after giving birth (together referred to as the perinatal period) can be an emotional time. But for many women and their families, not all of the emotions that come up are positive.

If you feel worried, sad, scared, agitated or extra sensitive, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re experiencing common symptoms.

Pregnancy is a time of great transition for women and their families. Since changes are happening daily — and women feel and see those changes happening in their bodies — mood swings are normal. This is especially true during a first pregnancy.

It can be overwhelming to experience your body changing, plan for a baby, and manage career and home life.

Some worry and anxiety is typical during most pregnancies. But if you are experiencing extreme worry, sadness, anxiety or depression, there may be something more serious going on.

Pregnancy-related depression and anxiety is the most common complication during pregnancy.

Up to one in seven women nationwide and one in 10 Colorado women report experiencing depression or anxiety during the perinatal period.

You are not alone. All moms, dads and families deserve support during pregnancy and parenthood.

You are not to blame. This is a challenging time of life.

With support, you will be well. There are resources in our community to support you.

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

Sources: 2020 Mom, https://www.2020mom.org/mmh-disorders
Postpartum Support International, https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-postpartum-mental-health/

Pregnancy is a time of tremendous change. To understand whether the emotions you feel are normal or may be a sign of something more serious, consider these questions:

  • Do you feel unusually sad on a regular basis?
  • Do you experience panic or anxiety more than you normally would?
  • Are you struggling to eat or sleep normally?
  • Are you often short-tempered and irritable with others?
  • Do you have upsetting thoughts that you can’t get rid of?
  • Do you feel “out of control” or “on edge”?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.

No one should suffer through these symptoms alone.  Click here to see the resources in our community to support you and your loved ones.

Women can develop maternal mental health disorders no matter their age, income level, cultural background, family history or race.

Symptoms can appear at any point during pregnancy and in the first 12 months after childbirth. They can also appear after the loss of a pregnancy, or after adopting a baby.

“Baby blues” and “postpartum depression” are often used to describe these disorders. But there are several forms of maternal mental health disorders that women may experience. This page will help you learn more about each disorder and connect you with support if you need it.

The types of maternal mental health disorders include:

Baby Blues

Up to 80 percent of women will experience baby blues — or feelings of worry and sadness in the days and weeks after they give birth.

Signs and symptoms of baby blues: 

  • Mood swings
  • Often feeling sad and crying
  • Feeling overwhelmed that you can’t do a good job caring for the baby
  • Trouble sleeping, eating or making decisions

Baby blues usually go away without treatment one or two weeks after birth.

Learn more about symptoms of the baby blues here.

Pregnancy-related anxiety

Up to 15% of women will develop anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth. Some women experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they have anxiety and depression.

Women experiencing severe anxiety and/or depression should be treated by a health care professional. Doctors may want to rule out certain physical causes for symptoms before making a diagnosis and recommending treatment.

Signs and symptoms of pregnancy-related anxiety: 

  • Excessive worry
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares
  • Fear of being alone with your baby
  • Restlessness
  • Physical symptoms or panic attacks — muscle soreness, dizziness, nausea, chest pains, trouble breathing, sweating, shaking, heart racing, tingling in hands and feet
  • Persistent, intrusive thoughts or mental images that you can’t get rid of
  • Repetitive behaviors that are hard to control
  • Lack of interest in the activities and/or people you used to love

Women who have a family or personal history of anxiety or depression may be at a higher risk for experiencing pregnancy-related anxiety.

Pregnancy-related anxiety is temporary and treatable with professional help.

Learn more about anxiety during and after pregnancy here. 

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

Pregnancy-related depression

Depression during and after pregnancy is more common than people realize. In fact, depression is the most common complication associated with childbirth.

About 15% of women experience significant depression after childbirth, and the number is even higher for women living in poverty and for teen parents. Ten percent of women experience depression during pregnancy.

Symptoms of pregnancy-related depression can start anytime during pregnancy or throughout the first year after giving birth.

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Feeling angry and irritable
  • Lack of interest in your baby or difficulty bonding
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Regret over having a baby
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Trouble eating, sleeping or engaging in routines normally
  • Possible thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Women who have a family or personal history of depression or anxiety may be at a higher risk for experiencing pregnancy-related depression.

Pregnancy-related depression is temporary and treatable with professional help.

Learn more about depression during and after pregnancy here.

Find treatment and support programs for pregnancy-related depression here.

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

Pregnancy-related Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder during and after pregnancy is more common than people realize. In fact, perinatal women are 1.5 to 2 times more at risk for OCD than the general population.

OCD often co-occurs with pregnancy-related depression, and if you have been diagnosed with OCD prior to pregnancy, you may be at a higher risk for developing postpartum symptoms.

Symptoms of pregnancy-related OCD can start anytime during pregnancy or throughout the first year after giving birth. Symptoms appear to be most common in the weeks following delivery.

Signs and Symptoms: 

  • Intrusive, upsetting, repetitive thoughts — usually of harm coming to the baby
  • Significant feelings of guilt or shame
  • A sense of horror about the thoughts you’re having
  • Hypervigilance with a focus on protecting your baby
  • Engaging in behaviors to avoid harm or to minimize perceived threats
  • Fear of being left alone with your infant

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, remember: Your thoughts do not equal reality. There is help available.

Pregnancy-related OCD is temporary and treatable with professional help.

Learn more about OCD during and after pregnancy here.

Find treatment and support programs for pregnancy-related depression here.

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

Psychosis

Psychosis is a very rare — but very serious — illness that only occurs in just 1 of every 1,000-3,000 births.

Symptoms of psychosis usually come on suddenly within two or three weeks of childbirth.

Women are most likely to experience postpartum psychosis if they have a personal or family history of bipolar disorder or psychotic episodes.

If you or someone you know develop any of these symptoms, seek medical help right away.

Symptoms

  • Strange beliefs (for example, that your baby is possessed)
  • Hallucinations (e.g., seeing someone else’s face instead of your baby’s face, or hearing things that are not there)
  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Hyperactivity
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Decreased need for sleep or unable to sleep
  • Feeling suicidal or wanting to harm your baby

Learn more about the risk factors and symptoms of postpartum psychosis here.

Find programs in Jeffco that support women and families. Enter your zip code to find resources near you.

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

While pregnant, anything women eat, drink, inhale or are exposed to may affect the baby.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol, marijuana or nicotine during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

It’s important to talk to your health care provider about all alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, drugs, medications, caffeine and supplements you may be taking.

If you are struggling with substance use while pregnant or as a mom, there are confidential resources in our community to support you.

There are potential risks to the baby when moms use substances while pregnant. These risks include: miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight, premature birth, birth defects, developmental delays and learning issues.

Marijuana is legal in Colorado for adults over 21. But this doesn’t mean it’s safe for pregnant or breastfeeding moms or babies.

Confidential and nonjudgmental treatment and support are available for pregnant women and their families.  Contact the Recovery Nurse Advocate Program at Lutheran Medical Center for more information.

For women who want support to quit smoking or vaping for their own health and the health of their baby can get free resources through the Baby and Me Tobacco Free program.

Sources: Smart Choices, Safe Kids, https://smartchoicessafekids.org/pregnancy/
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/marijuana/effects-while-pregnant-or-breastfeeding

If you or a loved one is struggling with maternal mental health challenges, there are treatment programs in our community to support your family.

Treatment plans are different for each person and may include:

  • Self-care and activities to reduce stress
  • Medication
  • Talk therapy
  • Rest and good nutrition

Programs in Jeffco focused on supporting maternal mental health are listed in this section.

For confidential, free and immediate support for maternal mental health disorders call the Postpartum Support hotline at 1.800.944.4773.

There are also many other programs in Jeffco to help families in need of child care, financial assistance, food pantries, medical care and more. Enter your zip code to get started.

Support for Women’s Mental Health During and After Pregnancy 


Organization: Jefferson Center for Mental Health

Services: Individual clinical therapy treatment for women and caregivers suffering from pregnancy-related mental health challenges. Jefferson Center also offers a full range of services and resources to support the mental health of children, youth and families.

Eligibility requirements: Health First Colorado (Medicaid); private insurance accepted; uninsured/indigent services available on sliding-scale

Contact number: 303-425-0300 (request Maternal Mental Health  Services)

Website: Visit the Jefferson Center for Mental Health


Organization: Lutheran Medical Center, SCL Health

Program: Recovery Nurse Advocate Program

Services: Home visitation care by a Registered Nurse (RN) during pregnancy and for one year postpartum for women who are struggling with substance abuse or have a history of substance abuse. RNs support clients with finding healthcare and insurance coverage; getting mental health and substance use treatment; nutritional needs; stable housing; child care; pregnancy and parenting education; support groups; and more.

Eligibility requirements: Any woman prenatal through one year postpartum who is currently struggling with or has a history of substance use disorder. Participants do not need to be in treatment.

Contact number: 303-467-4080

Website: Recovery Nurse Advocate Program at Lutheran Medical Center