Updated: Dec 17, 2021
Many parents have heard of the term “baby blues” as well as “postpartum depression”. Amidst the shifting hormone levels and stressors of bringing a new baby into our lives, it is common and almost expected for behaviors to change. But when and how do you know if what you’re experiencing is something that needs professional support?
Did you know 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 fathers experience symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)? Terms such as “anxiety” and “depression” tend to be catch-all categories and used often, but PMADs is more inclusive and captures the range of illnesses that one can experience. These include: depression during pregnancy and postpartum, anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum, pregnancy or postpartum obsessive symptoms, postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar mood disorders, and postpartum psychosis. Having a specific set of words that can lead to a diagnosis helps many people understand more of what is going on with them.
The transition into parenthood can seem overwhelming to many and comes with a plethora of competing emotions. It is normal to feel happy one moment, and be crying the next...for what seems like no reason! Exhaustion, irritability, lack of motivation, and even anger for the first couple of weeks after birth can also be normal reactions to this new role. However, if symptoms linger for more than a few weeks post birth, something more prominent, like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety may be likely (and we have resources to help!). The thing with PMADs is they don’t discriminate against age, income level, race, culture, or profession. They can change from pregnancy to pregnancy for the same woman, and also potentially switch forms within the same after-birth period.
Symptoms of PMADs could look like:
Feeling Hopeless & Overwhelmed
Isolation & Fear
Anger or irritability
Guilt, Regret, or Self-Doubt
You may also experience physical symptoms, such as:
Nausea and dizziness
Racing heart and chest pain
Shortness of breath
Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
As moms we often find it hard asking for and accepting help. We feel guilty asking for 5 minutes to go to the bathroom by ourselves, or asking someone else to watch our child so we can get in a power nap. But, if you feel any of the above symptoms, it IS time to ask for help.
Struggling with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or any mixture of the above means you are lacking the support you need to feel like yourself again. This is NOT your fault. And even more importantly, you are not alone. With the proper assistance and knowledge, you will be well.
There are several different treatments for PMADs and since each person has a different path to parenthood, it is essential that each person has their own path to healing.
The first step in the healing process is a professional evaluation. This includes meeting with a trained professional (licensed counselor, social worker, or other mental health practitioner) who has specific experience and education in the perinatal realm (a fancy word for during and after birth). The best way to identify this specialized training is by the credentials “PMH-C” which stands for Perinatal Mental Health Certified/Certification. During the evaluation or intake, you talk about relevant history, current symptoms, as well as goals for therapy and beyond. Once there is a good relationship established, the work begins!
Another option for treatment is group therapy. This allows you to hear from other parents who are currently experiencing some of the same emotions and struggles that you are. Sometimes hearing from others makes us feel like we are not alone. Also, hearing from those that are healing can give us the encouragement and confidence we need to feel like ourselves again.
Other options for treatment include alternative methods (acupuncture, light therapy, supplements) as well as medication that should be discussed with both a therapist as well as medical professional.
Support for PMADs
Your Village Counseling not only provides exceptional individual therapy, but also gives resources and referrals to other providers in the area (OBGYN, midwives, pediatricians, pelvic floor therapists, acupuncture, massage, etc). In addition, YVC works in conjunction with Postpartum Support International (PSI), the most prominent international non-profit in the field of perinatal mental health; it is imperative to keep up to date on best practices, research, and advocacy in this matter.
Remember, PMADs are temporary and treatable...with the proper support, you will find yourself again.
I am here to listen and help when you are ready.