What are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)?
“Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders” (PMADs) is an umbrella term that encompasses maternal mental illness during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. PMADs are a leading complication of childbirth in the US, and an estimated 30,000 Georgia women experience these illnesses every year. These disorders can affect all women – regardless of ethnicity, age, or socioeconomic status.
What are the different kinds of PMADs?
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders constitute a spectrum of mental illnesses. Often, the term “postpartum depression” is used to generalize these conditions, but mothers can experience more than just depression. PMADs include:
- Antenatal Depression/Anxiety
- Affects an estimated 15% of pregnant women
- Occurs during pregnancy
- Symptoms include: sadness, problems sleeping, crying, irritability, worrying, lack of interest in usual activities, hopelessness, and feelings of guilt.
- Postpartum Depression
- Affects approximately 10-15% of postpartum women
- Symptoms include: sadness, crying, hopelessness, feeling guilty, difficulty sleeping, difficulty bonding with the baby, feeling tired.
- Postpartum Anxiety/Panic Disorder
- Estimated to occur in up to 11% of new mothers.
- Symptoms include: feeling very nervous, recurring panic attacks (shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations), and exaggerated fears
- Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Approximately 3-5% of new mothers
- Symptoms: obsessions (persistent, frightening thoughts or mental images related to the baby) and compulsions (repeated actions to reduce the fears and obsessions)
- Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- An estimated 1-6% of women experience PTSD following childbirth
- Symptoms include re-experiencing the traumatic childbirth through flashbacks, avoidance of stimuli associated with the event (thoughts, feelings, people, places, etc.), and persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle, etc.)
- Postpartum Psychosis
- Occurs in approximately 1 to 2 of every 1,000 deliveries.
- Symptoms include: delusions and/or hallucinations, extreme irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for sleep, significant mood changes with poor decision-making, and greatly increased risk of infanticide/suicide.
- Postpartum psychosis is considered a psychiatric emergency
What is the difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression?
Baby blues is a period of low mood for up to two weeks following birth. It is very common, occurring in up to 80% of mothers, and is not considered a mental illness. The symptoms are generally mild, including crying, low mood, and stress, and it goes away on its own without treatment within two weeks.
Postpartum depression lasts longer than the first two weeks after birth and often has more severe symptoms. It can also begin immediately after birth or any time within the first 12 months. The severity of the symptoms of postpartum depression is enough to affect a woman’s functioning. Postpartum depression does not go away on its own, but can be effectively treated.
How do I know if I have a perinatal mood/anxiety disorder?
Various treatment options exist for women suffering from perinatal mood disorders including:
Individual or group therapy
Antidepressant, antipsychotic, or other pharmacological treatment as prescribed by healthcare provider
Social support such as peer support groups
Although seeking professional help is vital, a woman can complement her treatment plan with self-care and other support strategies. Mothers should remember that taking care of oneself is NOT selfish. Rather, taking time to work on your physical, emotional, and mental health will benefit you, your baby, and your family as a whole. Listed below are several self-care strategies:
Eat nutritious food and avoid alcohol
Exercise, even if it is just a brisk walk down the street
Take time for yourself and engage in relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation
Spend time with family, friends, faith communities, support groups, or others who you can trust
Get plenty of sleep
Project Healthy Moms has compiled a list of healthcare providers in GA who have special training and/or experience with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. We have also created a list of support groups, fitness facilities, and other organizations in Georgia that promote self-care among pregnant and/or postpartum women. To access this list, please click here.
Can Dads get postpartum depression?
Yes. Dads can get postpartum depression or anxiety as well. If you are a new father and think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, contact your healthcare provider.
How can I talk to my doctor about PMADs?
Choose the doctor you are most comfortable with, whether that is your obstetrician, pediatrician, primary care physician, or anyone else. Discuss your concerns with your doctor as soon as possible; the sooner you receive treatment, the sooner you will begin to feel better. Be as open with your doctor as you can, and make sure your doctor knows how bad you are feeling, even if talking about your symptoms makes you feel guilty. Consider writing down your symptoms beforehand so that you will not forget anything. Ask for a referral to a therapist (or use our Resource List to find one).
If you feel that your doctor is not taking your concerns seriously, find someone else to speak to. You have the right to a supportive doctor.
How do I help a loved one who is struggling with a perinatal mood disorder?