Many factors can increase the chance a person will develop a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), although sometimes one occurs without any risk factors present.
Just as a woman can be proactive about the physical health of herself and her baby, she can also prepare during pregnancy to take care of her emotional and mental health. In addition, she can recruit a support person or team to help identify warning signs, identify and strengthen her resources, reduce or eliminate stress and put health practices in place.
Specific actions that can help reduce risk of PMAD include:
Make a plan.
Ask friends, family and others in the mother’s extended network (work, faith community, neighborhood) to bring meals, clean house, do the grocery shopping or hold the baby while Mom takes a nap.
Practice healthy lifestyle habits.
More now than ever, eating healthy, sleeping at least four to five hours at a time and getting moderate exercise can help keep up the mother’s energy and reduce stress.
Identify people to talk with openly.
No matter how complicated or uncomplicated a woman’s pregnancy and childbirth, she needs to be able to talk about her feelings, concerns and fears and get feedback on how things are going. Expressing herself to safe friends and family members, trusted clergy or a new mom’s group can help allay feelings of isolation and anxiety. Also, spending time with other moms can provide helpful insights and support for healthy habits.
Be intentional about reducing stress.
Shorten your to-do list and practice simple stress management techniques such as:
- Take 10-15 minutes a day to meditate, practice yoga or some breathing techniques including:
- Be flexible about how things get accomplished. For example, rather than trying to clean the whole house, give yourself 10 minutes each night for a quick clean-up of one or two specific spaces to reduce visual clutter.
- Instead of trying to prepare meals for yourself during the day when you’re home with a new baby, keep tubs/baskets of healthy snacks in easy-to-reach spots, such as on side tables, set out on the kitchen counter or ready-to-go in the fridge. Granola bars, peanut butter crackers, mini bags of dry cereal, fig bars, dried fruit, nuts, individually wrapped cheeses, mini sandwiches, veggie sticks with hummus, and favorite fruits are all great examples of simple, nourishing snacks you can grab anytime. Also, be sure to keep a water bottle close throughout the day and stay hydrated!
- Accept help from others when it’s offered; don’t be afraid to outright ask for help when you need it!
- Shorten your daily to-do list and don’t accept any more responsibilities.
- Set more realistic expectations about being a parent. There is no such thing as the “perfect parent.” You and your baby are perfect for each other already – even if it doesn’t always feel that way!
Seek professional help if needed
If you or a facing a number of risk factors, especially personal history of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, another psychiatric illness or a previous PMAD, consult with a mental health professional during pregnancy to review other ways to reduce risk and possibly schedule check-ins throughout the pregnancy and postpartum.
PMAD Risk Factors
- Personal or family history of PMAD, anxiety, depression, bipolar or any other psychiatric illness
- Childhood trauma
- Perfectionist personality
- High expectations of motherhood
- Recent stressors: illness, divorce, move, job change, death, financial
- Lack of social support
- Complications with pregnancy or breastfeeding
- Traumatic labor and delivery
- Fussy, colicky, ill or high-need baby
- Reproductive losses: miscarriage, abortion, infertility
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Stressful relationship with significant other
- Mother of multiples
- Mother of infant(s) in NICU
- Thyroid imbalance
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
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.