Drug Use in the Past May Lead to Postpartum Stress and Anxiety

It is normal for a new-mom to feel anxious as her bundle of joy opens its eyes in the world for the first time. It is also normal for her to feel tired, exhausted and overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that come with a baby and also continuing to take care of the old ones. Usually, the new mother learns to cope with these as time passes, but when she is unable to do so, she might move towards depression, commonly known as post-partum depression.

In most cases, this postpartum anxiety (also referred to as ‘baby blues’) goes away after some time. However, with COVID-19 pandemic spreading like a wildfire, women are experiencing more stress, sadness, anxiety, and fear and are unable to organize their thoughts or feelings reeling under baby blues longer than what is considered normal.

‘Baby blues’ are the most common postpartum emotions, affecting around 60–80 percent of all new mothers. It usually does not require medication and subsides within a few days. In up to 20 percent cases, baby blues or postpartum blues progress to postpartum depression (PPD) that can adversely affect cognitive growth of the newborn.

There are different theories explaining the occurrence of mental health problems after childbirth, including a previous history of anxiety disorders or depression, experiencing stress, stressful situations during pregnancy, and a history of traumatic relationship with the partner. However, a past study has highlighted another possible risk factor for stress and anxiety in mothers after childbirth.

Drug Use in the Past

A research from the North Carolina State University and the University of British Columbia suggested an association between woman’s lifetime history of drug use and likelihood of developing stress and anxiety after childbirth.

The study was aimed at enquiring the role of lifetime drug and alcohol use in causing postpartum mental health problems. The study was carried out on women within approximately 3 months after childbirth, who answered queries pertaining to mental health history, lifetime substance use, and postpartum symptoms of worry, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.

These findings are important in the view that healthcare professionals can now predict the risk of developing mental health problems in moms-to-be and take preventive measures by screening women for lifetime drug use.

The study revealed that the history of drug might increase the severity of symptoms of stress and anxiety after childbirth but it had no causal role in postpartum depression.

Early diagnosis improves treatment outcome

An estimated 15 out of 100 women are known to be suffering from depression in the first three months post-delivery. While about half of these women (or 8 out of 100) are likely to develop mild or moderate depression, approximately 7 out of 100 may experience severe depression.

Therefore, to prevent the progression of initial anxiety to depression, it is significant to visit a mental health professional for the follow-up. Early diagnosis of baby blues and identification of the associated risk factors can help healthcare provider to prevent its progression to postpartum depression.

The postpartum depression is characterized by negative feelings that are more intense than the “usual” baby blues. These signs may include persistent sadness and crying, unable to find pleasure in things, loss of appetite, anxiety, inability to concentrate, low self-esteem and thoughts of harming yourself and baby. Experiencing these symptoms for several days may indicate depression in new moms.

If you or someone you know is struggling with any depression or anxiety, you can get in touch with the Medical Concierge. Our mental health recovery helpline 877-636-0042 can connect you with reliable anxiety treatment centers offering evidence-based treatment programs. Alternatively, you can chat online with our trained medical experts for further assistance.

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