After the birth of their babies, at least 1 in 7 women (likely even a larger number than that, because it often goes unrecognized and unreported) experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety. There are many changes that occur during pregnancy and post-partum, physically, mentally, hormonally, and in terms of sense-of-self and identity. To top it all off, new parents experience sleep-deprivation. All of these changes create the perfect formula for feeling depressed, anxious, or both. While you’re adjusting to these changes, some feelings of sadness and worry can be normal, but it’s important to know which signs might indicate that it’s time to seek additional support.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are a group of emotional and sometimes physical symptoms that can affect pregnant and postpartum parents. Symptoms of PMADs can appear anytime from conception up until 1 year after birth. This group of disorders can affect parents in every financial, cultural, racial, religious or age group and can be caused by changes in biology (hormonal), physiology, and environmental factors. Although less commonly talked about, partners can also experience these symptoms, for men referred to as Paternal Perinatal Depression (PPND). While experiencing symptoms of a PMAD or PPND can be distressing, it’s important to remember that there is support that can help you through this period of change.
Symptoms to Look For
• Feelings of intense sadness or worry that are impacting your daily functioning
• Feelings of irritability, anger or resentment
• Loss of interest in activities or relationships you usually find rewarding
• Dramatic changes in appetite, upset stomach, or headache frequency
• Difficulty concentrating/making decisions that are impacting your daily functioning
• Lethargy and/or insomnia
• Feelings of panic
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
• Obsessive thoughts or paranoia
• Possible thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
**It is important if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby, or someone else that you go immediately to your local Hospital Emergency Room**
What You Can Do
Early screening and intervention can provide you, your baby, and other family members with the ability to overcome these symptoms and to feel healthy and happy. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or feel uncertain about what you are experiencing, it can be helpful to reach out to a professional for further support:
• Your Primary Care Doctor
• Your Child’s Pediatrician
• Your Local Emergency Room
• A Licensed Therapist who specializes in PMADs or PPND
• Postpartum Support International Helpline: (800) 944-4773
• Maternal Mental Health at National Institutes of Health
• The Breastfeeding Center (Variety of Groups and Classes for Support)
• Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts: A Healing Guide to the Secret Fears of New Mothers – By Karen Kleiman, MSW
• Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, By Brooke Shields
• Postpartum Men
• The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook: Practical Skills to Help You Overcome Anxiety, Worry, Panic Attacks, Obsessions and Compulsions, By Pamela Wiegartz & Kevin Gyoerkoe
Supporting Someone with a PMAD or PPND
If your partner or someone else you love is struggling, you will likely also benefit from support. Symptoms of PMADs and PPNDs can impact the wellness of the whole family and can lead family and friends to feel isolated, frustrated, and helpless. Options for support include:
• Couples or Family Counseling with a Licensed Therapist
• Postpartum Dads Website
• Postpartum Support International Tips for Partners
• GoodTherapy: Supporting Someone with Postpartum Depression
• The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for living with Postpartum Depression – By Karen Kleiman, MSW
• This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression – By Karen Kleiman MSW and Valerie Davis Raskin, MD.
For a full guide of resources please view The Breastfeeding Center Breastfeeding Center Parent Support Resource List!
Read more of Joanna’s blogs by visiting The Quarter Life Center Blog.