Mental Health Awareness Month: Depression in Women

Written By: Care New England on May 10, 2019

Did you know one in five people will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime?  Like physical health, good mental health is essential to everyone’s well-being. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so we are taking the opportunity to focus on depression in women, as it is one of the most common mental health issues women face.

While mental health issues can plague both genders, they affect men and women in very different ways. It’s estimated that 12 million women experience depression each year in the United States. This occurs at twice the rate of men.

Depression in Women
It is well-documented that women of childbearing age are most vulnerable to experiencing an initial or repeat episode of depression. Hormonal fluctuations may be a reason for this. For example, the most common time for a woman to experience depression is during the perinatal period — either during pregnancy or in the postpartum period.

Following childbirth, a reported 10 to 15 percent of new mothers meet the criteria for major depression, with anxiety typically being a prominent feature.

Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth can vary and range from mild to severe. These may include:
  • Depressed mood, severe mood swings, or excessive crying.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Difficulties bonding with your baby.
  • Loss of appetite or excessive eating.
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much.
  • Overwhelming fatigue, loss of energy, or restlessness.
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
  • Intense irritability and anger.
  • Fear you’re not a good mother.
  • Hopelessness and feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy.
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions.
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

Those suffering from depression may not be aware of the signs. If you suspect a friend or loved one has depression, postpartum or otherwise, assist them in seeking medical attention immediately. Left untreated, depression can be a life-threatening condition and may last for many months or longer. Treatment works. Studies have shown that 80 percent of patients noticed a significant mood improvement during and after treatment.

Care New England Hotline
To reach Care New England’s 24/7 hotline for support on behavioral health and addiction services, call 1 (844) 401-0111. To learn more about women’s behavioral health, and the programs available at Women & Infants Hospital, visit  

For all of Care New England’s behavioral health programs, including Butler Hospital, Kent Hospital, and The Providence Center, go to

Margaret Howard, PhD, is the division director of the Center for Women’s Behavioral Health and the associate director of the Women’s Mental Health Fellowship at Women & Infants Hospital. She is also a professor of psychiatry and human behavior and medicine, and clinician educator at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis.  If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.