How Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Can Impact You

“It’s just the baby blues.” The symptoms of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are easy to overlook, minimize, or attribute to the natural difficulties of adjusting to life with a newborn. But PMADs can dramatically impact a birthgiver’s wellness, decrease ability to bond with their babies, and put them at a heightened risk for suicide.

You may have PMADs if you have experienced any of the following during pregnancy or during the first year postpartum:

  • Feelings of guilt, sadness, hopelessness, or numbness that did not seem to match your situation.
  • Intense fear of something happening to your baby or other loved ones that you did not have prior to pregnancy.
  • Shortness of breath, chest pain and fear of losing control or dying (symptoms of panic)
  • Changes in your eating, sleeping, and hygiene that are mood dependent. It’s normal to have all of our routines disrupted by a new baby, but if you are struggling to take care of yourself on a regular basis because you feel too down to do so, it could be PMADs.

Getting Support

Your pediatrician will likely evaluate your mood using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Questionnaire, which might capture some of your symptoms, but likely won’t touch on all of them. If you are concerned that you have PMADs, your pediatrician may have recommendations for providers that specialize in perinatal mental health. (Note – scoring high on a depression inventory is NOT grounds for your baby to be taken from you or for you to be deemed an unfit parent in any way. Find a provider you trust and be honest.)

Recovery could include:

  • Working with a therapist to evaluate thought patterns that may exacerbate PMADs
  • Connecting with a prescriber to explore medication options that are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 
  • Joining a support group, such as the ones offered free by Postpartum Support International.
  • Asking for help so you can get more sleep, social support, and/or time to decompress from the demands of parenting.

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