The majority of new mothers experience at least mild emotional changes in the first couple days and weeks postpartum, called the “baby blues.” The perinatal period, from pregnancy up to the first year after giving birth, is also a time when many women, up to 1 in 5, experience a range of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). The most well-known is postpartum depression, but PMADs can also include anxiety disorders, or, in rare cases, postpartum psychosis.
Preventing, or lessening, the symptoms of PMADs starts in pregnancy and includes the following:
1. Making sure you are getting enough sleep.
2. Making sure you are getting adequate nutrition and physical exercise.
3. Finding support before baby is born, and not being afraid to ask for help (friends, family, community).
4. Talking to your medical provider about your past history, or family history, of any mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder), past trauma, or even life stress that may increase your risk.
5. Educating yourself on the symptoms of PMADs. Educating your family and friends, as they may notice the symptoms first.
6. Knowing that PMADs are treatable during pregnancy and postpartum; the earlier, the better, for both mom and baby.
Symptoms of PMADs include sadness, crying, changes in sleep and/or appetite, difficulty with concentration, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, not enjoying things you used to enjoy, feelings of guilt and shame, unexplainable physical symptoms, thoughts of death or dying, increased feelings of anxiety over the baby’s well-being and difficulty bonding with the baby. If your symptoms persist longer than two weeks, it is extremely important to seek the help and treatment of a provider who knows how to treat PMADs.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders often go undiagnosed and untreated, and women are left to feel they are suffering alone. Advocate for yourself, your friends and your family members who may be experiencing PMADs. If you are experiencing symptoms, don’t hesitate to talk to your medical provider about treatment options.
Cone Health has an exceptional network of licensed clinical social workers, pediatricians, lactation consultants, OB/GYN’s, primary care providers and other related health care professionals dedicated to educating and caring for women and children throughout the community in order to promote overall well-being and good quality of life.
Jamie McMannes, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker at Cone Health’s Center for Women’s Healthcare at Women’s Hospital. She received her Bachelor of Arts in community and justice studies with a minor in psychology at Guilford College. Jamie received her Master of Social Work from the Joint Program in Social Work at North Carolina A&T State University and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.