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New Moms may be at Risk for Peripartum Mood Disorders during the COVID Pandemic and Beyond

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INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTHCARE (Murray, UT) –The month of May means a lot of focus on moms and the issues that affect them, and it’s also Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month worldwide.

“My thoughts, they got so bad to the point that I didn’t want to live anymore, ” Mckenzie said. McKenzie Larson, a mother from Sandy, suffered from peripartum mood disorder with her first baby born prematurely in 2017.

“I started thinking that maybe being a mom wasn’t for me maybe you know it was the wrong step that I had taken and there was somebody else more fit to do it than me and it was just an awful time,” McKenzie said. McKenzie struggled to bond with her baby. Her peripartum mood disorder, which occurs during pregnancy, turned into full-blown postpartum depression after the baby was born and lasted for years.

“I mean she was almost three years old when I finally felt like I was back to normal, ” McKenzie said. “One out of eight women in Utah experience postpartum depression, ” said Dr. Lash.

Dr. Denise Lash is co-director of Therapy for Intermountain Healthcare and a licensed psychologist. She says these mood changes are different from the baby blues. Baby blues is kind of just a colloquial term that we refer to that mom, most moms about 80% of them will experience after labor and delivery and that’s mainly due to hormone changes and just the lack of sleep and the energy it takes for our body to heal after giving birth and that typically goes from one to two weeks and typically resides on its own. It might start around week four post-delivery, ” Dr. Lash said.

Factors that may contribute to being at risk of postpartum depression include major life stresses, a family history or previous mental illness and also having your baby during the pandemic.

“Let’s say, the expectant mom gets to keep her job but maybe she’s now working remotely, maybe work was previously a great social outlet for her so she’s going to have more depression and anxiety potentially from that and just the isolation. Normally having a baby is a happy time that involves the whole family but you know maybe grandma grandpa don’t want to come around,” Dr. Lash said.

McKenzie says she hit rock bottom with her mood swings through her three-year struggle. With the help of her midwife and Intermountain Healthcare, she found great resources including Reach Counseling in South Jordan. “Even on the bad days, I just have this great mental toolbox that I can just reach into,” McKenzie said.

Dr. Lash says you or your family can look for signs of both peripartum mood disorder and postpartum depression. “Any notable change in behavior. If mom is not functioning well like normally she’s happy to go to work she’s not getting out of bed to go to work, she spends most of her time in bed, not eating well, not brushing teeth you know hygiene falls by the wayside or a lot of social withdrawal,” Dr. Lash said.

Mckenzie had her second baby three months ago and is now able to manage the mood swings. “There is hope, it does get better. And you have to be willing to speak up about the way you are feeling like do not be ashamed,” McKenzie said.

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, call the Intermountain Emotional Health Relief hotline: 833-442-2211.

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