Anxiety disorders affect new mothers more than depression: Study

Anxiety disorders affect new mothers more than depression: Study

It is normal to feel a bit stressed during pregnancy, but if this stress continues and causes increased levels of anxiety and depression, it may affect the mother and the child. It is important for expecting mothers to seek medical help for possible psychiatric disorders that may affect them during pregnancy or in the phase of early motherhood.

A study by the University of British Columbia (UBC), published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders in April 2016, said that pregnant women and early mothers are three to four times more likely to suffer from bouts of severe anxiety than depression.

AD causes emotional distress

In the study, titled “Perinatal anxiety disorder prevalence and incidence,” the researchers observed 310 pregnant women from Metro Vancouver between 2007 and 2010. The respondents were asked to complete a questionnaire, providing details about their mental health conditions, after which an in-depth interview of 115 participants was conducted.

The study is the first of its kind to understand the prevalence of maternal postpartum anxiety disorders (AD) and also assess prenatal AD incidence through the information provided by them at the interview during the study.

It was observed that 15.8 percent women experienced AD during pregnancy, whereas 17.1 percent women experienced the condition during early postpartum period, as compared to 3.9 percent women suffering from depression during pregnancy and 4.8 percent experiencing the mental disease during early motherhood. However, only less than 5 percent of the respondents were found to suffer from both the conditions – AD and depression.

Commenting on the observations made in the study and the inference drawn by the scientists, lead author of the study Nichole Fairbrother, an assistant professor at UBC Island Medical Program in Victoria, said, “The implication of this finding is we have a collection of mental health conditions that we’re not paying enough attention to. Anxiety disorders cause a huge amount of emotional distress, they compromise quality of life, they’re associated with lots of health care cost, and they’re impairing, so they interfere with the ability to work.”

He also said that AD during early motherhood is likely to influence parenting and the quality of the mother-infant relationship. Mothers, who are anxious, communicate less effectively with their infants. If doctors only focus on the occurrence of depression, there is a possibility of inappropriate treatment.

However, the study is limited by a relatively small sample size for a prevalence study, and non-random sample selection.

Seeking treatment

The findings of the study point to increased occurrence of AD during early motherhood period with more women being afflicted by it than depression, thus, necessitating the need for early intervention. Though no exact reason has been attributed to the sudden onset of AD and depression in women during the postpartum phase, researchers have focused on finding new ways for the treatment of AD in new mothers.

As per  the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 40 million adult Americans are suffering from AD, which makes it one of the most common mental illnesses in the country. Doctors advise medications along with a host of psychotherapeutic and behavioral measures to treat AD.

If you or your loved one is dealing with AD that demands immediate attention by certified psychologists, call the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California to know about one of the best anxiety disorders treatment centers in California. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number (855) 972-9459 and seek the best anxiety disorders treatment in California.

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