Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

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Loss, pregnancy, and parenthood can be a very challenging and overwhelming time in one’s life that brings up many emotions. Being pregnant and giving birth to a child is often thought of as a joyous occasion, however, for many women this time period is met with distress starting with pre-conception. While it is common to feel mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15-20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression and anxiety, referred to as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders or PMADs. With the right support and resources, women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can feel better. Below are different types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders:

Baby Blues: About 80% of women will experience “baby blues” after giving birth. Symptoms include feeling weepy, sad and overwhelmed. This will go away on its own within 4 weeks.

Postpartum Depression: If symptoms of the baby blues extended beyond 4 weeks and worsen, you may be experiencing postpartum depression. Depression experienced during pregnancy or the first year postpartum may include symptoms of feeling hopeless, guilt, sadness, severe mood swings, irritability, anger, changes in eating habits, changes in sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, withdrawal from family, lack of interest in your baby (or pregnancy), and sometimes even thoughts about harming your baby or yourself.  Many women begin experiencing depression during their pregnancy.

Postpartum Anxiety: Symptoms of postpartum anxiety may include extreme irrational worries and fears (often about the health and/or safety of the baby), inability to sit still, feeling jittery, lack of appetite, or racing thoughts (inability to quiet your mind). Some women may also experience panic attacks, which may include shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and numbness/tingling.

Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Women who experience postpartum OCD can have compulsions or intrusive or obsessive thoughts. Compulsions are actions that reduce fears and obsessions, such as checking things many times. Intrusive thoughts are repetitive, unwanted, and upsetting thoughts or images often relating to the baby. Moms who have symptoms of postpartum OCD find these thoughts scary, unusual, and are unlikely to act on them.  

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P-PTSD): 1-6% of new moms experience Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is typically caused by a real or perceived trauma during childbirth. Examples of traumas could be an emergency c-section or a baby that needs to spend time in the NICU. Symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, nightmares, and avoidance of anything that is related to the event.

Postpartum Psychosis: Postpartum Psychosis is rare and usually comes on suddenly within the first four weeks after giving birth. Symptoms may include hearing voices that other people cannot hear, seeing things that other people cannot see, experiencing delusions or strange beliefs, feeling paranoid or suspicious, difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and mania. Postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization. It is a temporary and treatable condition if immediate help is sought. If you or a loved one may be experiencing postpartum psychosis, call your doctor or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.