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Perinatal Mood Disorders and Maternal Mental Health

May is Maternal Mental Health Month!

This month, there are several things planned to help bring awareness to this important topic- webinars, live events on social media, and new blog posts! We’ll cover mental health issues that impact various stages of motherhood, from pregnancy through empty nesting. You’re sure to learn something new, so check back often for more details!

Week One: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)

Most people have heard of Postpartum Depression- PPD, but did you know that there are actually five more mood disorders that can present during or as a result of pregnancy? It’s true! Many of these are perinatal conditions, meaning they can take place anytime during the perinatal period- that is, from conception through one year after birth. Here’s a little information about the other PMADs and what to do if you or someone you love is showing signs of one of them.

Perinatal Anxiety

Perinatal anxiety can show up anytime during pregnancy or within the year following birth. In fact, about 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop this disorder, sometimes in addition to perinatal depression. Women with a personal or family history of anxiety, previous perinatal depression or anxiety, or thyroid imbalance are more at risk of developing this condition. Specific forms of Perinatal Anxiety can result in Postpartum Panic Disorder, which causes recurrent panic attacks.

Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

A subset of perinatal anxiety, perinatal OCD impacts 3%- 5% of women. With Perinatal OCD, a mom may have obsessions (repetitive, upsetting, and unwanted thoughts or mental images) and/or compulsions (the need to do certain things over and over) to reduce the anxiety caused by those obsessive thoughts. It is important to note that moms with postpartum OCD find their thoughts scary and weird and are very unlikely to ever act on them. Risk factors include a personal or family history of anxiety or OCD.

Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PPTSD is often caused as a result of a traumatic birth (including NICU experiences), stillbirth, or infant loss. Moms who experience this may have flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event. Women who have experienced past trauma of other forms may be more likely to develop this condition.

Perinatal Bipolar Mood Disorders

Bipolar disorders can look like severe depression or anxiety. They are categorized by severe mood swings (not normal pregnancy mood swings) with symptoms lasting longer than four days and interfering with the woman’s ability to function at home, at work, or in relationships. There are two types with similar symptoms but with varying intensity (Bipolar I is more intense than Bipolar II), and it is important that this be diagnosed by a professional because it’s often misclassified as depression or anxiety and treating for only depression/anxiety can actually increase symptoms. Risk factors include having a family or personal history of bipolar mood disorder (also called manic-depression).

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a serious condition requiring immediate, emergency treatment. Although it usually shows up within the first two weeks after birth, it can show up later in the postpartum period. PPP sufferers may experience hallucinations and altered reality- believing things that aren’t true. They may distrust those around them and appear confused, manic, or