Beyond Baby Blues: A Guide to Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders

By: LizLee | July 30, 2018  

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) can affect any childbearing woman regardless of age, education, income, or culture. According to the CDC, “Depression is often underdiagnosed and untreated. Nearly 60% of women with depressive symptoms do not receive a clinical diagnosis, and 50% of women with a diagnosis do not receive any treatment.” PMAD presents considerable health risks to women and their families, particularly for the small number of patients (about 5%) for whom the condition is severe enough to require inpatient care.

5 Major PMADs and Symptoms

  • Prenatal/postpartum depression (PPD)

Symptoms include anger or irritability, lack of interest in the baby, sadness, crying, guilt, shame, hopelessness, sleep disturbances, and possible thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.

  • Prenatal/postpartum anxiety (PPA)

Symptoms include racing thoughts, constant worry, a feeling that something terrible is going to happen, inability to relax, dizziness, hot flashes, nausea, sleep and appetite disturbances.

  • Prenatal/postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Symptoms include obsessive intrusive thoughts, compulsive repeating patterns, sense of horror, fear of being alone with the infant, and an elevated fear of protecting the infant.

  • Postpartum psychosis (PP)

Symptoms include delusional beliefs, hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid mood swings, irritated feelings, communication difficulties, paranoia, and suspiciousness.

  • Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Symptoms include events from an unplanned C-section, prolapsed cord, baby admitted to NICU, use of forceps or vacuum extractor during delivery, powerless feelings and lack of support. Other indications include previous PTSD diagnoses such as rape or sexual abuse, injury during childbirth such as hysterectomy, hemorrhage, preeclampsia, or a perineal tear.

When to Seek Treatment

Any of these symptoms could suggest that you have a form of perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD). Some women experience mild mood changes during or after childbirth, but 10 to 20% of women encounter more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. Please know that with informed care you can prevent these symptoms and have a full recovery. There is no reason or excuse to continue to suffer. Contact your help care provider for more information about treatment options for PMAD and take the next step to silence the suffering.

Reminder to New Moms

  • Any mother or mother-to-be can be affected with PMAD

  • It’s more common than you think

  • The signs and symptoms aren’t always clear

  • Breastfeeding mothers can continue to breastfeed while receiving help

  • Traumatic birth and pregnancy can impact a mother significantly

  • Physician, support groups, and PMAD help is available for you

The Direction for the Future

The most significant problem of being traumatized is the sinking feeling that nothing matters. It is difficult if not impossible to take care of and love the people in your life. It's hopeless to get involved in pleasurable engagements because your brain has been realigned to cope with danger. It is only partly an issue of conscious awareness. Much has to do with the unconscious parts of the brain that keep interpreting the world as being harmful and distressing. Therefore, leaving you with abundant helpless feelings. You know you shouldn’t feel that way, but you do, and that is what makes you feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Spread the Awareness

The first step in treating a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder is recognizing that the pain is due to a treatable illness. You are not alone. Understand that knowing the facts can provide tremendous relief and hope.   Similarly, it's important that your family understand that no one is to blame in this situation. Treatment can include individual or family therapy, support groups, and sometimes medicine consultation.

Also, it's essential that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders be confronted, not only to diminish severe chronic mood disorders, marital trouble, and child neglect but also to protect the mother-child bond after birth. We can open up the conversation about why PMAD is not an uncommon ailment for many women in their new role as mothers, by spreading the awareness about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).

National Emergency Hotlines

If you or a loved one are experiencing and suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, please call the National Emergency Hotlines. The Emergency Hotlines are available and monitored 24 hours a day seven days a week. Reach out and save yourself and your child now.



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