Many women have mental health issues during or after pregnancy. About one in seven women goes through depression after giving birth. These rates may be even higher in women Veterans. Anxiety during and after pregnancy is also common.
This Mental Health Month (May), VA wants women Veterans to know that these conditions are common and treatable. Mental health symptoms are a part of many women’s lives. They do not mean you are weak or a bad parent. These symptoms are not your fault. Many good, loving parents have mental health issues and learn to overcome them.
VA knows it can be hard to talk about mental health issues. This is especially true during or after pregnancy. You may feel pressure to “be happy” at this time in your life. This can make it hard to talk about negative feelings or difficulty bonding with your baby. VA providers can help you feel understood and supported. They can work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs.
Risk factors, symptoms and treatments
Anyone can develop a mental health condition during or after pregnancy. Learning about risk factors and noticing symptoms early is important. It can make a difference in treatment and recovery. Mental health problems during and after pregnancy are often preventable. If you are at higher risk, you should discuss your options with a VA provider.
You may be more likely to have mental health issues if you have:
- A personal or family history of mental health conditions
- Prior trauma
- Stressful life events
- Limited social support
If you develop depression during or after pregnancy, you may:
- Feel sad or numb
- Have trouble concentrating or completing tasks
- Feel “robotic,” like you are going through the motions
- Have thoughts like, “This is my fault” or “I’m a bad mother”
- Be less interested in activities you used to enjoy
- Have trouble having loving feelings towards others
- Notice scary, upsetting thoughts, including thoughts about harming your baby
Discuss your options with your provider
There are many treatments that can prevent or ease mental health symptoms during and after pregnancy. Your provider can discuss these options with you. Examples include therapy, exercise and changes to your diet. In some cases, medication may be necessary.
If you are having mental health issues during or after pregnancy, VA is here to help. Asking for help is an important way for you to take care of yourself and your children. You can reach out to your VA provider or contact the Women Veterans’ Call Center (WVCC) at 1-855-829-6626.
If you want to become pregnant and think you may be at risk for mental health challenges, talk to your VA provider. They will work with you to find solutions to meet your needs.
If you need mental health support right away, contact the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL). VCL connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with caring VA responders. Support is available through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255. Press 1, chat online or send a text message to 838255 to receive support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
VA’s Women’s Health Services Office is part of The Women Veterans Health Program, created in 1988, to streamline services for female Veterans to provide more cost-effective medical and psychosocial care. VA’s Women’s Health Services Office provides programmatic and strategic support to implement positive changes in the provision of care for all women Veterans.