What are perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and do I have one?

Pregnancy is a stressful time, no matter how elated you might be by the news. Your body is about to undergo or has already undergone many physical and hormonal changes. Adding an infant to your family—even if this isn’t your first child—is a very big step, regardless of how well prepared you are. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and fearful about messing up. You’re only human, after all. If you struggle to take care of yourself during pregnancy and in the initial weeks and months of your child’s life, you may wonder how you could ever do a good enough job taking care of your child.

What are perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

Many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child. However, in some cases these changes may be more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. There are a multitude of common cognitive, behavioral, physical and emotional symptoms that have been reported.

How do I know if I have one?

While there are some common symptoms, its important to note that no two parents experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) in the same way. Many parents have heard of postpartum depression, but far fewer are aware that PMADs can also include obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder. As a result, some women don’t connect their change in mood or behavior with pregnancy or giving birth.

While up to 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” after giving birth, it isn’t the same thing as postpartum depression. The two conditions share many symptoms, from mood swings and crying spells to insomnia and irritability, but if the symptoms last more than two weeks after giving birth, it is likely indicative of postpartum depression. By equating the two, many parents incorrectly assume they just need to “be stronger” or “outlast the stress” to feel better. The belief that you need to do it all on your own places even more pressure on you as a parent, and it can make it harder to reach out for help when you need it.

The surest way to understand and improve how you feel is with a qualified pregnancy and postpartum therapist. Unfortunately, it can be taboo to admit you have doubts or fears about motherhood. Everyone expects you to be over the moon about a new baby - but it’s not your fault if you feel overwhelmed or more stressed than you thought you would. Pregnancy and postpartum related mood disorders make it hard to feel your best, and it’s nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about.

You are not alone.

You may feel like you are the only mother struggling in this way, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone. As many as 1 in 5 women experience symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, such as postpartum depression, according to the CDC.

Unfortunately, common misunderstandings about what constitutes a perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) has caused many mothers to go without the help they need.

Things will get better.

Thankfully, PMADs are common, treatable, and temporary. Pregnancy and postpartum therapy can help you learn to adjust to your new normal and alleviate fears about parenthood so you can take better care of yourself and your child.

Getting started

Our therapists are available seven days a week to help new and expecting mothers. To schedule an appointment, our team can be reached by text or phone at 224-698-9792. Alternatively you can also schedule an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you are hearing or seeing things that others can’t, or if you experience periods of confusion, memory loss, or mania, please seek immediate medical attention. These may be signs of postpartum psychosis, a rare but serious treatable condition.