Chicago Expert Says ‘Anxiety’ Is A Major Challenge Facing New Moms

/PRNewswire/ — Postpartum depression has long been seen as a problem, but mental health providers say anxiety – not just depression – seems to be a major challenge facing new mothers today.  Mental health experts in Chicago are identifying an increasing number of patients who are experiencing severe anxiety and obsessive compulsive symptoms after childbirth.

“We’re seeing moms with disabling anxiety, not just depression after giving birth,” says Vesna Pirec, M.D., Ph.D., the chief medical director of Insight Behavioral Health Centers and a leading expert in the field of women’s mental Health.  “The presentation of anxiety symptoms varies from overwhelming thoughts and images of something bad happening to the baby, to fears that they could somehow harm their newborn. These thoughts can lead to a full blown anxiety attack and a decline in normal functioning,” says Dr. Pirec.

According to recent studies, 16% of postpartum mothers experienced pure anxiety symptoms, while only 6% had pure depression; 4% of the sample had comorbid anxiety and depression. Many experts in the mental health field feel more research is needed. 

Pregnant and postpartum women are often not adequately screened for anxiety even though they are considered an at-risk population for developing new anxiety disorders, or exacerbation of preexisting anxiety symptoms.

“We need improved awareness for perinatal anxiety among both the general public and health care providers,” says Dr. Pirec.  “In some cases, symptoms can start in pregnancy and continue in postpartum, which could affect either fetal or child development.”

Symptoms of perinatal anxiety can include:

  • Excessive worrying –  A persistent focus of a specific anxiety, such as excessive fear of sudden infant death, or a developmental issue which may or may not be objective.  These fears can lead to hyper-vigilance by the mom.
  • Severe insomnia – Most new moms lack sleep, but this would involve the inability of the woman to fall asleep or stay asleep even when the baby is resting.
  • Obsessions during pregnancy – The patient could be plagued by thoughts and images that something bad will happen to the baby, such as worrying about the baby falling or being contaminated by food or medication.
  • Obsessive compulsive symptoms in postpartum period – Examples include obsessively worrying about harming the baby, possibly to the point that the mom would avoid the baby.  Rituals could be created in the caring of the baby and could result in a decline in overall functioning.

Treatment of these issues is often adequately served with intensive out-patient services that would include individualized and group treatment, as well as medication management when appropriate.

Insight Behavioral Health Centers recently launched a comprehensive program tailored specifically towards mood and anxiety disorders in peripartum women.  The program includes individual and group therapy, with more than ten treatment groups for women covering a wide range of issues and experiences.  It focuses on assessment and treatment that is tailored to the patient’s specific needs.

“If left untreated, perinatal anxiety can progress into more severe forms of mental health illness,” says Dr. Pirec.  “If family members and health care providers can identify the signs early, we can take steps to ensure better health for mom and baby.”

About Insight Behavioral Health Centers In addition to its newly added women’s mental health program, Insight Behavioral Health Centers specialize in treatment for adolescents and adults dealing with mood and anxiety disorders and eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.  Insight is accredited by the Joint Commission and a teaching affiliate of the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University. Insight currently has four locations including Northbrook, Evanston, Willowbrook and downtown Chicago.  For more information, visit, or call 312-540-9955. For media inquiries, please contact Debra Baum at 847/767-1206 or at

SOURCE Insight Behavioral Health Centers

Order Reprint