We place a lot of expectations on ourselves as mothers-to-be and birthing persons. We assume that happy, lovey, pure attachment, “I-need-to-be-with-my-baby-all-the-time,” feelings will naturally come to us as soon as we see our bundle. We expect the 9 months of morning sickness, doctor visits, being poked and the challenges of labor to become a distant memory when we finally hold our baby. Oftentimes, this isn’t the case.
It isn’t uncommon that people experience unexpected difficulties during pregnancy and birth. This can leave feelings of emptiness like “somehow my body failed me.” Breastfeeding can be difficult as well. Some families have experienced infertility, loss, depression, anxiety or other mood disorders previously – and this can deepen trauma in the postpartum period. The fluctuation and drop of hormones during and after pregnancy and the gigantic adjustment of having a baby for the first time or bringing a baby into an existing family unit, can be overwhelming and stressful.
While some of this is normal and will pass with patience and support, there are times when this transition into parenthood evolves into what professionals call a PMAD – perinatal mood anxiety disorder. How do we distinguish the difference between normal baby blues and PMADs. Further, what help is out there for both scenarios?
After a baby is born, the drop in hormones can trigger feelings of sadness. It is common for the first couple of weeks post birth to feel teary, tired and stressed. The right remedy for baby blues is time, hands-on help, time spent outside, nutritious food and other supportive care ideas.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are a deeper, more prolonged version of the baby blues. While baby blues usually last a few weeks, PMADs can last years or never go away after birth. PMADs are varied and can have components of depression and anxiety. They were all formerly lumped in together and called “Postpartum Depression.”
Here are some facts about PMADs:
- Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is an umbrella term used to describe mood disorders during pregnancy or the postpartum period.
- 15- 20% of Women experience some degree of PMAD.
- Symptoms can include anxiety, depression/sadness, feeling numb, anger/rage, lack of interest in things once found enjoyable, changes in eating or sleeping, feelings of guilt, feelings of hopelessness, trouble concentrating, panic attacks, intrusive “scary” thoughts, worry, fears of going crazy, fears for babies health, or thoughts of hurting self or baby.
- PMAD affects women of every culture, age, income level and race.
- Symptoms can develop any time before and after 12 months for up to 3 years Postpartum.
- Symptoms of depression and anxiety can hinder attachment, affect relationships with partner and others, and greatly decreases sense of wellbeing.
- Symptoms often will not improve on their own or with time: therapeutic intervention are key to feeling better. Therapy WORKS. Therapy can help.
- You are not alone.
While there may be stigma, logistics, financial planning and more to manage when deciding on how to obtain care for a PMAD, ensuring that this need is met can help heal the trauma and create lasting, positive effects for you and your family. If you think you have a PMAD or if you think a friend is going through it, let’s make sure that help is available.