Most people have heard of postpartum depression, but perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), is a fairly new term that can better describe what some new mothers may experience after childbirth. PMADs can affect 1 in 5 new mothers and can happen anytime in the first two years of the perinatal period. Mothers of every age, culture, race and income level can experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which are considered to be the number one complication of childbirth.
After birth approximately 80% of new mothers will experience the “baby blues,” which is a normal adjustment period caused by changes in hormones and a major life transition. Symptoms of the baby blues are: sadness, feelings of overwhelm, irritability, trouble sleeping and feelings of isolation. These feelings typically start within the first few days after giving birth and usually go away within a couple of weeks.
If symptoms do not resolve naturally, or if they worsen, you could be experiencing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). Symptoms can manifest in many ways, such as: depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or obsessive thoughts of the possibility of baby being in danger, panic attacks and post traumatic stress disorder. If a new mother is experiencing any of these symptoms she should contact her care provider for assessment. It is important for her know that she is not alone and that PMADs are temporary and can be treated with a combination of cognitive therapy, peer support, self-care and medication, if necessary. Some risk factors include: if a women has previously experienced depression or anxiety, lack of familial or community support, past trauma or adverse life events and lack of sleep. New fathers are also at risk of developing postpartum depression and the risk may increase if the mother is experiencing any PMADs. Some resources for new families who may be experiencing PMADs are:
This Isn’t What I Expected by Karen Kleiman, MSW and Valerie Raskin, MD
Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for Living with Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman, MSW