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KPCC: Postpartum Depression—The Warning Signs, Challenges and Long-Term Impacts

KPCC show AirTalk recently featured research scientist and clinical psychologist Eynav Accortt, PhD, director of the Reproductive Psychology Program at Cedars-Sinai, discussing mental health issues that affect expectant mothers, such as anxiety and depression during or after pregnancy.

Accortt told AirTalk host Larry Mantle that postpartum depression affects approximately 10% to 12% of individuals who give birth. Doctors are particularly interested in "perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," meaning issues that occur during or after pregnancy. Rates of women experiencing these disorders have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, Accortt added.

"I often consider all of the biopsychosocial risk factors for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders," Accortt told Mantle. "Biological risk factors would be genetic risk, reproductive hormones, but also stress hormones like cortisol and also thyroid hormones."

However, individual women have different experiences. Some mothers are dealing with stress, and they might lack a partner or social support. Others may lack education, income or have a personal history of depression. Accortt said that these factors all place women at higher risk.

"The good news is that treatments work," Accortt told Mantle, noting that the antidepressant Zoloft is safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. She added that screening for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders at least once during pregnancy could help identify risk factors in women much earlier. That way if an individual later developed anxiety or depression, they would be connected to care sooner rather than suffering needlessly.

"Definitely speak with someone," Accortt urged listeners.

Click here to listen to the complete interview from KPCC.