transition to motherhood

What are Perinatal Mood Disorders?

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are a set of disorders that can occur anytime during pregnancy and the first year postpartum.  Often thought of as “postpartum depression,” PMADs actually include depression, anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and postpartum psychosis.  Ten to 20% of women will develop a PMAD. Over 800,000 cases are reported in the U.S. each year, making PMADs the most common maternal health complication.  Do not deny yourself the opportunity to feel good again. Talk to your doctor, talk to your partner. Once you decide to seek treatment, you will be on the road to feeling better.

What Factors Increase My Chance of Developing a PMAD?

  • Personal or family history of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety or panic disorder, bipolar disorder or any other emotional illness including pregnancy or postpartum mood disorders
  • History of severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • Thyroid disease or other chronic illnesses
  • Lack of support from family or friends
  • High level of physical or emotional stress
  • History of sexual, verbal, physical or mental abuse
  • Pregnancy complications and/or a traumatic delivery
  • History of infertility
  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • Abrupt weaning from breastfeeding
  • History of miscarriages or pregnancy losses

Every woman is at risk regardless of age, race or financial status.

Symptoms can include:

Frequent crying

Sleep and appetite changes

Feelings of loneliness, sadness, helplessness

Frequent mood swings

Repetitive, sometimes scary thoughts that won’t go away

Anger, frustration, irritability

Difficulty bonding with baby

Anxiety, panic, excessive worry

Feelings of being trapped

Fear of being left alone with the baby

Sense of doom

Lack of interest in life, feeling sluggish, fatigued, exhausted

Feeling overwhelmed

Feeling speeded up or wired

Thoughts of hurting yourself or those around you

What can I Do to Decrease My Risk of Developing a PMAD?

  • Ask for help. Being a mom is hard work. New and expectant mothers cannot do it all. Ask for help and support from loved ones.
  • Educate yourself. Learn the factors that increase the risk of developing PMAD and be aware of the signs and symptoms. Knowledge is power.
  • Educate your loved ones about PMADs. Share the information you read in this brochure with your loved ones. It is very important that they are aware of the signs and symptoms.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Take your prenatal vitamins and make sure you are getting a variety of foods in your diet
  • Exercise is important. A walk 3-4 days per week is beneficial for your mental health.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Take a nap when you can. Listen to your body and rest when it tells you to rest.
  • Take time for yourself.

Remember that despite your best efforts, PMADs are real medical conditions that can occur regardless of what you do or don’t do.  Talk to care providers who can help.

Following are two “tests” that may help you determine if you are suffering from a perinatal mood disorder.

1) From The Postpartum Stress Institute:

Do I have PPD?

Do you….

  • Have trouble sleeping?
  • Find your exhausted most of the time?
  • Notice a change in your appetite?
  • Worry about little things that never used to bother you?
  • Wonder if you’ll ever have time to yourself again?
  • Think your children would be better off without you?
  • Worry that your husband will get tired of you feeling this way?
  • Snap at your husband and children over everything?
  • Think everyone else is a better mother than you are?
  • Cry over the slightest thing?
  • No longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy?
  • Isolate yourself from friends and neighbors?
  • Fear leaving the house or being alone?
  • Have anxiety attacks?
  • Have unexplained anger?
  • Have difficulty concentrating?
  • Have scary thoughts that you are afraid to tell people about?

If you answered ‘yes’ to three or more of these questions, you may have postpartum depression or a related perinatal mood disorder.

2) Take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS).

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