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Health Conditions

Maternal Depression

Depression during or after pregnancy is very common – you are not alone. At least one in every ten women suffers from it. It can be treated and there is help and resources available at all stages of pregnancy.

If you think you, a friend or a family member is experiencing signs of maternal depression, help is readily available.

Maternal Depression: Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy or after childbirth vary, and they can range from mild to severe. While it is very common to have the “baby blues,” which are mild mood changes for a few days to two weeks after delivery, if the mood changes are more severe or if they last longer than two weeks in pregnancy or afterward, it might be depression. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
  • Having thoughts about not wanting to be alive or hurting yourself
  • Being afraid that something terrible might happen to the baby, or even thoughts that you might do something bad to the baby
  • Having trouble feeling connected to the baby the way you want to

Where Do I Turn for Help?

There are many resources to turn to if you think you might have symptoms of maternal depression.

  • First, talk to your partner, family members, trusted supports, or your physician. These conversations can often be the best first steps to getting the help you need.
  • Help is readily available if you or someone you know needs further assistance. New Yorkers can:
    • Call 311. Operators can connect you to resources in your neighborhood or very close by.
    • Call 1-800-LifeNet. This is a free, confidential help line for New York City residents. You can call 24/7. The hotline's staff of trained mental health professionals help callers find needed resources.
  • If you think you are having a real emergency you can't handle that puts you or your baby in danger, call 911. Emergency medical services can be dispatched to help you right away.

DOHMH Programs:

  • Nurse-Family Partnership
    • The nurse home visitors of the NYC DOHMH Nurse-Family Partnership conduct nursing assessments during every home visit for both the wellbeing of mother and baby throughout the program. Assessing depression using this PHQ-9 is conducted during the prenatal and postpartum periods. The nurse home visitors will counsel clients for their needs and will make referrals for additional services as necessary. Learn more
  • Healthy Start Brooklyn
    • HSB provides perinatal depression screening for all case managed clients, at multiple times during the perinatal period, using the PHQ9. Case managers who conduct screenings include nurse home visitors, family support workers, and doulas. Last year (CY 2013), we screened 659 women for depression. 374 were prenatal, 285 were interconceptional. Healthy Start Brooklyn also provides provider trainings. Learn more (PDF).
  • City Resources

External and Other Resources

  1. SPARKS
    Telephone peer based support network that can connect moms to treatment
    718-2-SPARKS
  2. Healthy Families New York
    A non-profit support group with toll-free help lines in English and Spanish and referrals to local services
    1-800-944-4773
  3. Postpartum Resource Center of NY
  4. Postpartum Support International
    A non-profit support group with toll-free help lines in English and Spanish and referrals to local services
    1-800-944-4773

There are other resources, too, if you or someone you know might need help or additional support raising children:

  • The Prevention Information and Parent Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373) provides confidential support and information to parents who are at risk of harming their children or want to prevent that from happening

Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Possible Result of Maternal Depression Left Unaddressed

Most women suffering with depression take excellent care of their children. However, if depression is severe, or if a mother is suffering from other concerning psychiatric symptoms, sometimes children may be at risk unless the mother gets help.

There are other resources, too, if you or someone you know might need help or additional support raising children:

  • The Prevention Information and Parent Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373) provides confidential support and information to parents who are at risk of harming their children or want to prevent that from happening.

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