Maternal Mental Health Awareness: Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Moms can face a variety of challenges when it comes to their mental health as their hormones drastically shift during pregnancy and postpartum. This, along lack of sleep, caring for a newborn, and adjusting to a new way of life, can bring about symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety—two common maternal mental health disorders.

We spoke with Michelle Lacy, Executive Director of Women’s Health Innovation of Arizona (WHIA)–an outpatient treatment center specializing in the mental health needs around pregnancy, postpartum and parenting—about some common signs and symptoms to be aware of when it comes to maternal mental health issues.

“Mental health struggles are the number one complication of pregnancy impacting over 600,000 parents a year,” said Lacy. “Sadly, less than 15% receive any kind of care.”

Here is what to look for when it comes to identifying postpartum depression or anxiety:

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone, and might include the following:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Appetite and sleep disturbance
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, overwhelm or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Anxiety

The symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum might include:

  • Constant worry
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Racing thoughts
  • Disturbances of sleep and appetite
  • Inability to sit still
  • Physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea

While postpartum depression and anxiety typically tend to show up in the first year after having a baby, Lacy says they can also happen during pregnancy or when weaning from breastfeeding. Some factors can also put certain women at a higher risk for developing a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD).

Risk factors for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) include:

  • Previous experience with PMADs
  • Personal or family history of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other mental illness
  • History of trauma
  • History of pregnancy loss
  • Fertility challenges and treatment
  • History of PMS or premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  • Limited support
  • Financial challenges (up to 50% of new parents experiencing poverty are at risk)
  • Childcare stressors

Seeking Support and Finding Healing

Does any of this seem relatable? Perhaps you’re wondering what you should do if you suspect you might be dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety, visit

“Reach out for support,” says Lacy. “For some, improved support is enough. This can happen through phone support, support groups or practical support in the household. If that doesn’t help, then reaching out to a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health would be a great next step.”

  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a great resource. There is a helpline through PSI 1-800-944-4773 or text “help” to 800-944-4773 (English) or 971-203-7773 (Spanish).
  • National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-852-6262.
  • Women’s Health Innovations of Arizona (WHI) also offers 1:1, couples and group counseling services, as well as services for young children and bills most insurance.

“We believe that all parents should have access to specialized care around this very vulnerable time,” said Lacy.

For more information on the services provided by Women’s Health Innovations of Arizona visit