May is National Maternal Mental Health Month

Clarissa Gooding-Aytch, MPH, MSW

Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman’s life but can bring many challenges. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges can be exacerbated and may result in mental health concerns.

Perinatal depression is a condition which occurs during or after pregnancy, and can present with mild to severe symptoms. You may be wondering, isn’t that Postpartum Depression? Well, yes…but not quite. Perinatal Depression includes Postpartum Depression, but many women experience depression during their pregnancy, which is Prenatal Depression. So, Perinatal Depression encompasses both Prenatal and Postpartum Depression.

Despite Perinatal Depression being a very common mood disorder among birthing and postpartum persons, it is, unfortunately, still very stigmatized. Due to this significant stigmatization, there is an incredible under reporting of mental health symptoms and among pregnant and postpartum persons. In 2018, only 12.5% of birthing people reported having depression during their pregnancy. However, more than 25% of these birthing people reported feeling postpartum depression. Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of these birthing people also report that their healthcare provider asked them about their mental wellbeing during their postpartum visit. Unfortunately, these birthing people did not have the same experience in the 12 months before they conceived, missing the mark to address mental wellbeing as a part of preconception health.[1]

The mind-body connection can have a profound effect on an individual’s health