Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)

Anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth affect up to 1 in 5 new or expectant mothers and their families.  These illnesses – also known as perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, or PMADs — are the #1 complication of pregnancy and childbirth.

Women of every culture, age, income level, and race can develop PMADs.  Symptoms can appear anytime during the two-year span from conception through baby’s first birthday.  Onset of symptoms may be gradual or sudden.  Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are caused by changes in biology, physiology, environment, and expectations.

Note:

  • Perinatal includes pregnancy and the first year after giving birth.
  • Antepartum or prenatal refers to pregnancy.
  • Postpartum refers to the first year after giving birth.

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are temporary and can be treated with a combination of self-care, social support, talk therapy, and medication if necessary.

Baby Blues

Most new mothers — up to 80% — experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness and irritability, during the first few weeks after baby is born. Often referred to as the Baby Blues, this is a normal adjustment  as pregnancy and postpartum hormones calibrate.  Symptoms usually last 2-3 weeks and resolve without medical intervention.  Learn more about the Baby Blues.

Depression

A woman experiencing depression during pregnancy or the first year postpartum might have feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, and thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or herself.  Learn more about depression including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

Anxiety

A woman with anxiety may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling. Learn more about anxiety, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Women with OCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These moms find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them. Learn more about OCD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. 

Panic Disorder

This is a form of anxiety in which the sufferer feels very nervous and has recurring panic attacks. During a panic attack, she may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, claustrophobia, dizziness, heart palpitations, and numbness and tingling in the extremities.  Panic attacks seem to go in waves, but they are temporary and resolve without assistance.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event. Learn more about PTSD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options. 

Psychosis

Individuals experiencing psychosis sometimes see and hear voices or images that others can’t, called hallucinations. They may believe things that aren’t true and distrust those around them. They may also have periods of confusion and memory loss, and seem manic. This severe condition is dangerous so it is important to seek help immediately.

Postpartum psychosis is a very serious emergency and requires immediate medical help.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum psychosis, call a doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.  Women with severe postpartum psychosis may require hospitalization and medication. Learn more about psychosis, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options

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