Over the past few years, more and more awareness has been raised about postpartum depression — which is amazing.
But often times, moms with babies in the NICU are often sidelined in these discussions. Apparently, some 70 percent of moms whose babies spend time in the NICU have signs of depression — and yet many don’t receive treatment.
In general, about 11 percent of U.S. moms suffer from symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD). NICU moms, unsurprisingly, suffer from postpartum mood issues at higher rates, according to a paper published at International Journal of Women’s Health. In addition to depression, up to one-quarter of women with babies in the NICU also experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Kathleen Hawes, a psychologist who works at the Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, told The Huffington Post that she doesn’t know “if the majority of NICUs have a psychologist on board or a social worker who can provide an assessment.” Hawes is especially involved in the mental health of moms, considering she worked on a 2016 study that found 20 percent of moms who had preemies suffered postpartum depression one month after discharge.
For those of you saying “duh” to all this — well, a professional also agrees with you. Kate Kripke, a clinical social worker and founder of the Postpartum Wellness Center of Boulder, told The Huffington Post: “Almost always, with NICU moms, comes some grief. We don’t treat grief; we support grief, but that emotional process is totally normal,” she said. “That is not necessarily a clinical depression or anxiety, even if it might, for a little while, look the same.”
As with any major life change, post-childbirth comes with an adjustment period and mood changes. As Kripke advised, be sure to ask new moms (and particularly NICU moms) how they’re doing. “Moms who say, ‘Everyone asked about my baby and no one asked about me’ — that’s atrocious,” she said. “That is not OK. But that is happening because those people don’t know what to ask.”
This post is part of the Here.Now. series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.