Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder: The Most Common Complication of Childbirth

Most of us envision that welcoming a new baby will be a time filled with excitement and joy. For many parents though, the experience is not what they expected. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, sad, worried, or having upsetting thoughts, know you are not alone, and help is available.

The term Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) is used to describe the set of disorders that individuals may experience during pregnancy and the first 12 months postpartum. Nearly 1 in 5 moms experience some form of PMAD during pregnancy or in the postpartum period. PMADs include Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Psychosis. Each of these are medical conditions that usually require treatment.

Partners and support persons may also experience symptoms including up to 10 percent of fathers.

Families with LGBTQ+ parents, adoptive families, single-parent families, etc. are all vulnerable to mental health illness in the perinatal and postpartum phase.

PMAD symptoms are caused by illness, not bad parenting

New parents often think their symptoms are a normal part of parenting and believe they should be able to handle parenthood. Often, parents are too ashamed or embarrassed, will blame themselves for being weak or don’t want to be seen as complaining. Additionally, some parents feel that expressing negative feelings during the perinatal period may result in their children being taken away or that they are bad parents.

Symptoms of these disorders can include a significant change in mood, irritability, guilt, or lack of interest in the baby. Often scary thoughts about self or baby and obsessive worrying can be a symptom of postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD. Sometimes a birthing parent with a PMAD can experience suicidal thoughts or, in rare cases, psychosis. A person is more likely to develop a PMAD if they have experienced a mental health disorder in the past. For others, the perinatal period can be the first time a person may experience these symptoms.

Despite being the most common complication of childbirth, PMADs often go untreated, causing serious complications for parents, babies, and families. There can be:

  • A disruption in the bonding with the baby
  • Interruption of the infant’s development
  • Family and relationship conflicts
  • In serious cases, can lead to suicide or infanticide

The World Health Organization reports women are at a greater risk of suicide the year after they give birth than any other time of life.

Treatment is critical

It is important to note these serious complications only result from untreated PMAD. These risks drastically decrease when proper treatment is received.

If you or someone you know has symptoms or expressing concerns, make sure to listen and validate their feelings. Let them know it’s not their fault, that the symptoms are not a sign of personal weakness or a sign they are a bad parent, and that they are not alone. Encourage new parents to seek help!

You are not alone! Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are the #1 complication of pregnancy. Pine Rest has innovative, proven programs to help you feel like yourself again.

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