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Mental Health and Pregnancy

Catherine Monk, PhD
Catherine Monk, PhD, Professor of Medical Psychology in Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology at CUMC

Please note: At this time, the Women's Mental Health initiative is only accepting patients referred by providers in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The mind and body are connected in ways that science is only beginning to understand. The dynamic state of pregnancy and the postpartum period may unmask feelings of apprehension and underlying anxiety not previously realized, or amplify feelings that have been present for a while. Behavioral health specialists at Columbia believe that taking care of the whole woman, body and mind, during the pregnancy and the postpartum period is essential for a the wellbeing of both patient and child.

Pregnancy is a time for women to take special care of themselves in terms of behavioral lifestyle and mental health routines to ensure they remain healthy. The positive effects of self-care during pregnancy will foster self-confidence that can extend into raising children, with downstream beneficial, generational effects, as children learn from a positive role model, and even during pregnancy women’s mental health affects her children. Our team, led by Catherine Monk, PhD, Professor of Medical Psychology in Psychiatry and Obstetrics and Gynecology at CUMC, believes that behavioral health services are a key part of quality obstetric care for you and your baby.

At Columbia, we offer multidisciplinary emotional and medical support for mothers experiencing life stress as well as mood disorders.  Our approach is guided by evidence-based principles, focusing on each woman as a unique person with appreciation that no one approach is suitable for all. 

Our program provides:

  • Consultation for women with psychiatric disorders who wish to conceive or are currently pregnant
  • Prenatal care for women with psychiatric disorders who are pregnant
  • Psychotherapy for women experiencing distress during the pregnancy or the postpartum period

We offer a team approach, where providers and patients work together to ensure that mother and baby get the best mental and physical health care. The team may include your prenatal obstetric provider, a health care provider who treats your depression, and a counselor.

Caring for your mental health

Feelings of worry and fear may be normal in pregnancy, as at other times in life.  However, recurrent or progressive negative feelings can lead to anxiety and depression and have negative consequences on the woman’s health as well as her pregnancy.

Women who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, or other mood disorders need the proper support and guidance throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period. These conditions may worsen during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery, and women may become more ill than at any other time in their life. 

Psychiatric Medications in Pregnancy

Psychiatric medications have an essential role in the treatment of mood disorders.  Approximately 13 percent of pregnant women (about 1 in 8) take an antidepressant medication during pregnancy. Patients taking any psychiatric medications should consult with their doctor about managing their medications during pregnancy to ensure both mother and baby stay healthy.