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What to Know about Postpartum Mood Disorders

There’s a reason babies are called “bundles of joy.” Families love welcoming new lives into their homes. But it’s normal for the birth of a child to come with stress, anxiety, and even depression.

As many as 85% of new mothers will experience postpartum blues. These are largely due to hormonal changes. Mothers will be anxious one minute, happy the next, then crying soon after that. These mood swings typically disappear after hormones adjust.

For one in five moms, the symptoms persist and sometimes become more severe. That is when it is time to seek treatment for postpartum depression.

What to Look For

People hear the word “depression” — even when it’s preceded by the word “postpartum” — and instantly think of sadness. But there’s more to it than that.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Harmful thoughts, including thoughts of hurting the baby

New parents, especially moms are also getting very little sleep, which can make these symptoms worse. It’s important to seek help as postpartum depression is easily treatable.

Mother carrying her daughter

Other Disorders

Postpartum depression is just one of several disorders related to childbirth and pregnancy. Family history is the most common risk factor associated with these disorders. They are:

  • Pregnancy and postpartum anxiety — Around 6% of pregnant women develop anxiety, while 10% develop it after childbirth. They can have it by itself, or it sometimes accompanies depression. Symptoms include:
    • Constant worry
    • Racing thoughts
    • Disturbed sleep
    • Restlessness
    • Dizziness
    • Hot flashes
    • Nausea
  • Pregnancy or postpartum OCD — Between 3% and 5% of new mothers and some new fathers develop this disorder around childbirth despite never being diagnosed with obsessive or compulsive behavior before. A family history of OCD is a common risk factor. Symptoms include:
    • Obsessive, repetitive thoughts about the baby
    • Compulsive actions like continually cleaning or checking on the baby constantly
    • Hypervigilance
    • Being horrified by these obsessions
  • Postpartum psychosis — This is extremely rare when compared with the number of mothers who develop postpartum depression or anxiety. Psychosis only occurs in one or two out of every 1,000 births, or 0.1% to 0.2%. Symptoms include:
    • Delusions
    • Hallucinations
    • Hyperactivity
    • Paranoia
    • Rapid mood swings

Those at greatest risk are new mothers who have family members with bipolar disorder or previous psychotic episodes. Research suggests women who develop postpartum psychosis have a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate. A person with postpartum psychosis is having a break from reality so it is vital for family members to call a doctor or an emergency crisis line immediately.

  • Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder — Around 9% of women experience PTSD following childbirth, which is caused by a real or perceived trauma. These include:
    • The baby going to the intensive care unit
    • Feelings of powerlessness or lack of support during delivery
    • Hemorrhaging
    • Perineal tears
    • Previous trauma
    • Prolapsed cord
    • Unplanned C section

This is treatable with professional care. It is important for the mother to know they are not to blame for whatever happened to them. Friends and family must be supportive. That is part of the healing process.

Here Throughout Your Pregnancy

AltaMed offers a wide range of support for expectant mothers, their babies, and children. Our licensed social workers speak English and Spanish and can connect you with vital services so you can find support you need as a new parent.

Our Behavioral Health specialists can also help you get through those times that may feel overwhelming, providing short-term mental health support. We can also link you with mental health services if you need long-term care.

Call us today at (855) 425-1777 to learn more about our services.

Call 988 if you are in crisis.

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Tips for Mother and Baby Before, During and After Pregnancy

Humans have been getting pregnant and giving birth for hundreds of thousands of years. The basics have remained constant during that time.

Nutrition and science, however, have advanced to the point that people who once had no chance of ever getting pregnant, can how have healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy children.

Parents play a big part — beyond the donation of genetic material — in healthy pregnancies and birth. Here are some checklists of things you can do before, during and after pregnancy to keep yourself, your partner, and your baby well.

Before Pregnancy

  1. Start planning — Just like you take steps to prevent pregnancy, you should take steps to keep yourself and baby healthy when you decide it’s time to have a baby.
  2. Visit your doctor — Let your doctor know your plans. Discuss any family history regarding pregnancy, medical conditions, medications, lifestyle, and vaccinations.
  3. Take folic acidYou should take 400 micrograms starting at least a month before getting pregnant and continue through pregnancy.
  4. Stop drinking alcohol, smoking, and drug use — These are all leading factors in birth defects, premature birth, and low birth weight.
  5. Avoid toxins — Cat and rat feces can affect the human reproductive system. So can manmade toxins in fertilizer, bug spray, or synthetic chemicals. Try to avoid exposure.
  6. Find the right weight — Obesity during pregnancy can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. It’s not healthy to be underweight either. Talk to your doctor about finding the right weight.
  7. Find help for family violence — Partner violence is always wrong and dangerous. Pregnancy adds a new element to the equation. Get help to find a safe situation.
  8. Know your family’s medical history — Ask questions. There may be traits you don’t know about that would be helpful to share with your doctor.
  9. Get mentally focused — Pregnancy can be stressful. Don’t let that stress interfere with your daily activities. Talk to your doctor about thoughts and feelings, and treatment if you feel overwhelmed.
  10. Keep at it — You may be building new habits. Stick with them to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

During Pregnancy

Keeping yourself and your baby healthy will be your focus once you become pregnant. It’s important to keep doing the good things you did before getting pregnant. It is also important to make sure you are fully vaccinated. That includes having the COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe for expectant mothers to get the vaccine. It’s also important for passing those antibodies onto their newborns.

Other steps include:
 

  • Regular prenatal checkups
  • Taking folic acid
  • Continuing to be tobacco, alcohol, and drug free
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding exposure to environmental toxins
  • Checking with your doctor before taking over-the-counter medications

It’s important for mothers to listen to their bodies and observe changes that may seem surprising. Talk with your doctor about warning signs and don’t be embarrassed to raise an alarm.

Pregnant Woman Being Weighed by Nurse

After Delivery

Most expectant mothers cannot WAIT to give birth. But once you’ve delivered there are new things to think about. They include:

  1. BreastfeedingThere are multiple benefits for mother and child. Lactation counselors can help with any problems you may encounter, getting your baby to latch. It’s important to safely handle and storage breast milk if you do breastfeed.
  2. Postpartum depressionTalk to your doctor if you feel depressed after delivery.
  3. Vaccinations — It is crucial to get your baby vaccinated. Follow this immunization schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  4. JaundiceNewborns sometimes have too much bilirubin in their bloodstream which causes their skin and eyes to appear yellow. It can lead to brain damage in newborns if untreated.
Woman Holding Her New Born

Parents need to be on the lookout for healthy and normal development in their baby. Make sure to attend well-baby visits and get all the recommended immunizations. You should also track your baby’s development and visit their pediatrician if you have any questions.

It Takes a Village

Parenting is a big job, but you don’t have to do it alone. AltaMed is available to provide specialized care to expectant mothers, new mothers, and newborns, giving them the best start at life. That includes age-appropriate immunizations and screenings. Our pediatricians also have information on early childhood development milestones and can talk to you about any concerns you may have during your child’s first few years of life.

Get started by contacting us today at (877) 462-2582.

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Baby in Bed Taking a Bottle

How to Properly Prepare and Store Baby Formula

Following the recent recall of powdered infant formula made at the Abbott Nutrition facility in Michigan, there is now a nationwide shortage of baby formula. This baby formula shortage has received national attention.

AltaMed wants to take this opportunity to remind parents about the proper ways to prepare and store formula and breastmilk. A few simple steps will ensure your baby is as healthy as possible.

Measuring Spoon for Baby Milk Preparation

Preparing Formula

Always start with clean hands and a clean work surface when preparing infant formula. Bottles also need to be cleaned and sanitized.

It’s not necessary to warm formula before feeding. You might find your baby prefers it. Don’t microwave a bottle to warm it. Microwaves can warm foods unevenly and create hot spots that will burn a baby’s throat or mouth. It’s best to place the bottle under running warm water then test the formula on the back of your hand.

Use a safe water source to mix infant formula. Only use the recommended amount of formula. Using too much can reduce the amount of nutrition your baby gets. Not enough water can dehydrate your baby.

Use It or Lose It

Infant formula can spoil after two hours at room temperature. Refrigerate it if you don’t plan on using it in the next two hours and use it within 24 hours of preparation.

Throw out any formula your baby doesn’t finish. Bacteria can grow when the formula is combined with your baby’s saliva. Make sure to clean and sanitize the bottle before using it again.

Unopened containers of formula should be stored in cool, dry, indoor places. The same is true for opened containers. Make sure the lids are secure. Don’t store them in the refrigerator.

Try to use the formula within one month of opening it. Write on the lid the date you first opened it. Never use formula after the “use by” date.

Baby Bottle with Breast Pump

Best Breast Milk Practices

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidelines for safely handling and storing expressed breast milk.

Always wash your hands with soap and water before expressing or handling breast milk. You can also use sanitizer if no soap or water are available.

If using a pump, inspect your pump and tubing to make sure everything is clean. Discard any moldy tubing. Use a disinfecting wipe to clean the pump dials, power switch, and countertop if using a shared pump.

Storing Breast Milk 

There are breast milk storage bags, but you can also use clean glass or plastic food-grade containers with tight-fitting lids. Try to avoid bottles with the recycle symbol number 7. These containers may contain harmful plastics. Don’t use disposable bottle liners.

Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored:
 

  • 4 hours at 77 degrees or colder (room temperature)
  • 4 days in the refrigerator
  • 6 to 12 months in the freezer

Clearly date expressed breast milk and always use the “oldest” milk first. Freeze it immediately if you don’t think you will use it within four days. Don’t store it in the door of your refrigerator or freezer to protect it from temperature changes when the door opens.

Breast milk expands when it freezes so leave some room at the top of the container. Thaw breast milk in a pot of warm water or run it under warm water. Never use a microwave. Also shake the bottle as the fat might have separated.

With You at the Start

At AltaMed, we care for all mothers and their babies. We know mothering is a big job and we’re here for you, so you don’t have to do it alone. If you are having difficulty finding formula, or breastfeeding, contact your provider. We want to help you and your baby to be as healthy as possible. Contact us at (888) 499-9303.

What to Know about Postpartum Mood Disorders