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Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Assessment

The Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Assessment Clinic at UCSF offers mental health services to women having mood or anxiety issues during or after pregnancy.

Although it is normal to have emotional ups and downs, many women experience more of the downs or have increasing anxiety during this time. Women may find that their low moods keep them from enjoying their pregnancies and new parenthood as much as they had hoped. These women may feel sad, confused, overwhelmed or anxious — and sometimes all of these at the same time. Our goal is to assist women in assessing their moods and developing an individualized mental health plan that can bring back their joy and excitement.

If you have concerns about your moods, you are not alone. Approximately one in 10 new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. In many cases, these women were depressed while pregnant. Many women hope to feel better after delivery, but sleep deprivation rarely improves moods. Research shows that if you've been depressed in the past, you have a 25 percent chance of becoming depressed while pregnant. Having a family member with depression also increases your chance of experiencing depression during pregnancy or after birth.

Depression or anxiety, left untreated, can interfere with your baby's mental and emotional development. Depressed moms can have less patience, become more easily frustrated and may not be able to give their babies all the attention they deserve. During pregnancy, a depressed woman is more likely to miss her prenatal appointments, abuse substances and eat poorly.

Because we care about your mental as well as your physical health during pregnancy, we encourage you to do what is needed to stabilize moods or anxiety during pregnancy. If you can do that, it is far less likely that you will experience postpartum depression. Our clinic offers the support and resources necessary to help you feel like yourself again.

What Are the Postpartum Blues?

During the first two weeks after delivery, most women experience emotional highs and lows caused by fluctuating hormone levels. You may feel grouchy, have difficulty concentrating or sleeping or have feelings of hopelessness and fears of being a bad mom. Many women find themselves "crying for no reason." Talking to family, friends or other new mothers and finding time to care for yourself can resolve the postpartum blues.

If your condition continues past two weeks or worsens, you may have a more serious condition called postpartum depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a serious condition. Without treatment, it can continue for more than a year and may interfere with your ability to parent effectively. Signs of postpartum depression may include:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Difficulty feeling close to your baby, or feeling overly involved or "obsessed" with everything connected to your baby
  • Difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Isolating yourself
  • Feeling like a failure as a mother
  • Feeling angry, guilty, irritable, sad or overwhelmed
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

How Is it Treated?

Depression during and after pregnancy may include medication, individual therapy, support groups or a combination of these approaches.

If you're taking antidepressant medication when you become pregnant, don't stop taking the medication without talking to your doctor or midwife. Many medications are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. If you discontinue your medication, this may cause your depression to recur and put you at high risk for postpartum depression.

If you think you have a problem, make an appointment at the UCSF Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Assessment Clinic by calling (415) 353-2566. Our clinic counselor, Becky Abel, is a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy. She can provide you with information and options for your condition.

Appointments are confidential and take about 30 minutes. Most insurance plans cover these appointments, although a co-payment may be required. Appointments are held at UCSF's Obstetrics Services at Parnassus.

Related Information

How to Reach Us

UCSF Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Assessment Clinic
Obstetrics Services at Parnassus
400 Parnassus Ave.
Floor B1, Suite A-096
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2566

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