Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well. ~Postpartum Support International
1 in 7 mothers of every age, income level and ethnic background will be affected by Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) within the first three months postpartum. 1 in 5 or 20% will be affected within the first year. Perinatal refers to the time during pregnancy and postpartum.
Although the term "postpartum depression" is often used, there are actually several overlapping illnesses, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. PMAD can be debilitating, but there are effective and well-researched treatment options.
While many women experience mild mood changes or "baby blues" after the birth or adoption of a child, some women experience more significant symptoms lasting longer than 14 days postpartum. These significant feelings of depression can also be felt by fathers.
Baby blues include emotional sensitivity, weepiness, and feeling overwhelmed. If these symptoms persist it is time to ask for help. Please see the Get Help page for local and online help.
Perinatal Depression might include feelings of anger, hopelessness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping, trouble concentrating, and sometimes thoughts of harming the baby or one's self.
Perinatal Anxiety might include extreme worries and fears, often pertaining to the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, feeling of a loss of control, numbness and tingling.
Perinatal Bipolar Disorder includes 2 distinct phases: depression and mania. The symptoms last longer than 4 days and interfere with functioning and relationships. Sometimes a person can have psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations (seeing things that are not there) and delusions (hearing things that are not real). Psychotic symptoms are a medical emergency and present a high risk of harm to one's self or baby. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, please call 911.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth. Symptoms might include flashbacks and dreams of trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid anything related to the traumatic event.
Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder might include obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are repetitive, upsetting and might include unwanted thoughts or mental images. Compulsion is the need to do certain things over and over to reduce anxiety. These behaviors may include cleaning constantly, checking things many times, counting and reordering things. Moms can find obsessions to be very scary and unusual, but may be unlikely to act on them.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare but serious illness requiring immediate medical attention. Postpartum psychosis occurs in approximately 1 to 2 of every 1,000 deliveries. The symptoms may include seeing or hearing things or hearing voices that others can't (called hallucinations and delusions), feeling energetic and unable to sleep, believing things are not true and distrusting people. The woman with postpartum psychosis is experiencing a break from reality. Psychotic symptoms are a medical emergency and present a high risk of harm to one's self or baby. If you or your loved one are experiencing these symptoms, please call 911.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Risk Factors
Depression is the number one complication of childbirth. There are a large number of risk factors that predispose a woman to postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders. If you know you are at risk, seek help early and familiarize yourself with interventions. Risk factors are not your fault and there is help in Ventura County.
- Previous experience with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or other PMAD
- Personal or family history of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental illness
- History of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- History of pregnancy loss
- History of trauma including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
- Single parenthood
- Domestic violence
- Birth of multiples
- Traumatic birth experience
- Baby with illness or admitted to NICU
- Stress related to relationship conflicts, financial difficulties, legal issues
- Extreme exhaustion and inability to sleep when baby sleeps
- Social isolation or lack of community
- Sudden or unexpected weaning
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