Did you know that Perinatal Mental Health Disorders are the most common complication of childbirth?
One in five women will develop a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) during pregnancy or in the months after giving birth.
You may have heard of Postpartum depression yet this is actually only one of many Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), including Perinatal Anxiety, Perinatal Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Perinatal Psychosis. We now use the word “Perinatal” instead of “Postpartum” to describe these disorders because perinatal describes the pregnancy AND postpartum period, as it is common for these symptoms to occur during pregnancy as well.
These mood disorders are really common yet parents often blame themselves. It’s really common to wonder, “Why me?”, and “What did I do wrong?” and to compare yourself to other mothers.
You did absolutely nothing wrong. PMADs are very common; 15-20% of new moms will develop a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder and even 1 out of 10 partners are at risk of developing these disorders too! There are many risk factors for developing a PMAD, including:
- Personal or family history of mental illness Including but not limited to depression, anxiety and postpartum depression.
- Traumatic pregnancy or birth Did you have an emergency C-section, an unwanted birth process, an urgent birth experience, or difficulty with breastfeeding? Was your baby in the NICU? etc.
- Difficult experiences around pregnancy or birth Did you have hyperemesis, were you on bed rest, did you bleed or have other difficulties during your pregnancy? Did you experience infertility, miscarriages, or multiples? Does your baby have special needs, or is your baby colicky, or have a difficult temperament? Have you had challenges feeding your baby?
- A history or current experience of domestic violence, physical, sexual or other abuse
- A traumatic childhood People often underestimate the impact of childhood trauma on their lives as adults. Childhood experiences have profound lasting effects.
- Stress Significant changes in your life can greatly impact your emotional health: transitions such as moving, relationship challenges, losing a loved one or losing a job can impact your mental wellbeing
- Lack of social support Do you feel like you are lacking a “village”? Is your partner deployed or are you a single parent? Does your family live in another part of the area or are they not very involved?
- Personality Certain personality traits have been seen as relevant in the development of PMADs, including needing to be in control, perfectionism, or having low self-esteem.
The very most profound thing we have to offer our own children is our own healing – Anne Lamott
Some women may feel depressed after having a baby, and many women feel overwhelmed and anxious. Additional common symptoms are:
- Impatience, irritability, rage
- Intrusive thoughts, images, or fears of harm coming to your baby
- Feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness
- Lack of motivation and loss of energy
- Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
- Changes in sleeping and/ or eating patterns
- Isolation and withdrawal from loved ones
- Frequent feelings of “I can’t do this”
- Not feeling like yourself / feeling “off”
- Difficulty attaching or bonding to your baby
- In the most serious cases, seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there and/or beliefs that are not based in reality
Regardless if you are experiencing all of these symptoms or only a few, the good news is these symptoms are temporary and very treatable with professional help. Therapy can help you learn to manage these emotions, build skills to learn to trust your instincts and help you relax and enjoy being with your baby.
Helpful resources for PMADs include:
- Postpartum Support International
- PSI Helpline 1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453
- Postpartum Health Alliance (San Diego Area)
- PHA Warmline 619-254-0023
- Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Health
- Office on Women’s Health
- Postpartum Stress Center
- Postpartum Depression Online Support Group
- Postpartum Depression Online Support Group for Dads
Birth Trauma resources:
- Birth Trauma Association (UK Birth Trauma Association)
- pattch.org (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth)
- solaceformothers.org/ (Solace for Mothers After Traumatic Birth)
- TABS (Trauma and birth stress – PTSD after childbirth)
- Improvingbirth.org (Improving birth)
- makebirthbetter.org (Make Birth Better)