Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders: What You Need to Know
Did you know the most common complication after childbirth is postpartum depression? Many women experience this and fewer openly talk about it. Bringing a baby home is a major life change and requires a period of adjustment. Because of this, it is normal to struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues during pregnancy, after birth and within baby's first year. Let’s talk more openly about these issues so that more moms know it is normal and more moms feel comfortable reaching out for help!
Knowledge is power and as a pregnant woman, mother to be, partner, or loved one, educating yourself is the best way to prepare for this possible outcome. Many people are familiar with the term “Postpartum Depression” but this has been expanded into a broader category called Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders because there are a variety of symptoms or disorders that women may experience after giving birth or bringing a new baby home.
Along with depression, women may experience other mental health issues including, but not limited to: postpartum anxiety, bipolar, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Just reading that list of possible complications may be overwhelming, but the good news is that PMAD are treatable and by educating yourself on the signs and symptoms, the risk factors, and how to get help, you can be empowered to care for yourself, so that you can enjoy caring for your baby.
What Do I Look For?
Common signs and symptoms of PMAD include many of the same feelings people experience in depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar and OCD. These signs and symptoms vary from person to person and may vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.
Some of the common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
Sleeping or eating too much or too little
Lacking pleasure in activities that you typically enjoy
Constant or uncontrollable worry
Panic attacks (shortness of breath, chest pain, dizzy, heart pounding)
Not feeling bonded to baby or fearing being left alone with baby
Thoughts of dying, suicide, homicide, or baby being harmed
Irritability or rage
Being guarded or on edge
Impulsivity or risky behavior
Repeating a behavior to avoid harm
What Factors Might Increase My Risk of PMADs?
There are a variety of factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing PMAD, however, keep in mind that having one or more risk factors does not mean you will develop PMAD. If you have any risk factors the best way to proceed is to more closely monitor how you are feeling during your pregnancy, after birth of baby or after you bring baby home and come up with a plan in case symptoms of PMAD arise.
Some of the most common risk factors include, but are not limited to:
Personal or family history of mental health issues
Traumatic experience including prior loss of baby, pregnancy or traumatic birth
History of abuse/neglect, whether physical, sexual, verbal or emotional, at any age
Parent of multiples or baby with NICU stay
Lack of support system or other general life stress (instability in relationships or finances)
How Do I get Help?
So what do you do if you notice PMAD signs or symptoms? The most important idea to remember about getting help is to tell someone who you trust! This could be your OBGYN or midwife, your partner, family member, friend, therapist, or doula. As mentioned before, PMAD are treatable and there are a variety of options, depending on your situation and preferences. Sometimes just sharing your feelings with a loved one and getting extra help and support will make you feel much better!
For treatment of PMAD, talk therapy and medication are highly recommended, either together or separately. There are also options for additional support through doulas or other in-home help, support groups, books, websites and apps. If you’re looking for resources including a therapist, psychiatrist, or support group in Austin, the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance has an extensive list of options for local support at pphatx.org. To access PMAD resources nationwide try postpartum.net and postpartumstress.com.
Being a mom is challenging and no mom should settle for suffering!