The birth of a child is one of life's most joyful events. However, for many Texas women that happiness is darkened by sadness and anxiety of postpartum depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that approximately 10 percent of new mothers may experience postpartum depression, which is characterized as a major depressive disorder with a pregnancy or postpartum onset.
Mental health issues overall impact approximately 1 in 5 adults in Texas, according to the CDC. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is promoting Mental Health Awareness Month this May, bringing this issue to the forefront to encourage critical, ongoing conversations and provide support and information about mental health risk factors, symptoms and treatments.
When it comes to PPD, proper recognition is key. While symptoms for PPD can be broad or similar to other conditions, common symptoms can include extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. It's important to note that PPD should not be confused with the "baby blues." The baby blues is a contained period of mild ups, downs, weepiness or stress lasting a few days up to two weeks within a few days of a baby's birth.
New moms and their loved ones should not ignore or dismiss any unusual symptoms or behaviors. If left untreated, PPD can impair how a new mom cares for herself or her newborn. For example, a new mom may eat or sleep poorly, miss prenatal visits or not follow medical instructions. A new mom may not be able to bond with her child or respond to his or her needs. This could impact the infant's cognitive development or cause problems with sleeping and eating.
It's important for new mothers who may be struggling to discuss their concerns with their health care provider.
Texas health experts also need to help women who may have PPD. For example, the state has several initiatives that can provide women with important health information and connect them with mental health resources.
Healthy Texas Women offers screening, diagnosis and treatment for women who have PPD. A new mom can visit Healthy-TexasWomen.org to find a doctor near her who can help her determine if she has PPD or another condition. Postpartum screenings for PPD also can lead to early detection, giving a new mom the opportunity to seek and receive treatment to help improve her mental health and overall well-being.
Another option is to visit Mental HealthTX.org to find a provider in the Pregnant Postpartum Intervention program. If a new mom has a history of substance abuse, PPI can help with substance use screening and assessment, counseling and intensive case management and psychoeducation. PPI providers leverage postpartum depression resources and support groups to enhance their services to prepare mothers for child care.
Resources also are available for health care providers through the Texas Clinician's Postpartum Depression Toolkit on the Provider Resource page at Healthy-TexasWomen.org. Those tools are designed to encourage an ongoing conversation between doctors and new mothers.
We encourage all mothers to make their health a priority and when necessary seek out the support and services they may need. Your new baby is depending on you.
Lesley French is the associate commissioner of Health, Developmental and Independence Services Department at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
Sonja Gaines is the associate commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Health Services at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.