What Are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are a group of mental health challenges that show up during pregnancy or the postpartum period.

A few specific examples of PMADs include:

  • Perinatal Depression
  • Perinatal Anxiety
  • Perinatal Panic Disorder
  • Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Perinatal Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Perinatal Bipolar Disorder
  • Postpartum Psychosis

They’re more common than you think.

PMADs are the #1 complication of childbirth.  They impact new mothers, fathers, and parents of all genders.  They appear in new parents of all ages, income level, and ethnicities.    It’s estimated that 1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers will experience a PMAD, with even higher rates for parents from marginalized communities.

When untreated, PMADs can have a serious impact on your life.

While many new parents experience “baby blues” after the birth of a child (inc. mood swings, tearfulness), this experience will often pass after about two weeks.  PMADs, on the other hand, can last much longer, feel much more intense, and get in the way of day-to-day life.

Some signs of a PMAD include:

  • feeling overwhelmed with intense emotions (inc. fear, sadness, anger, shame, hopelessness)
  • crying or being on the verge of tears all day
  • losing interest in activities that you used to love
  • having frequent scary thoughts about something bad happening to your baby
  • having difficulty concentrating or staying motivated with important tasks
  • feeling especially exhausted because you’re not sleeping at night (even when your baby does)
  • feeling regret about having a baby or worry that you might not be cut out for parenting
  • having thoughts about hurting yourself, your baby, or someone else

As you can imagine, any one of these experiences could have a negative impact on your life if it stuck around for a while.  Many parents with a PMAD will experience several of these things simultaneously.  Over time, untreated PMADs can have lasting harmful consequences for the new parent’s mental health, physical health, relationships, career, and developing baby.

Good news: PMADs are highly treatable.

The good news about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?  They are TREATABLE and can be TEMPORARY.  If you think you may be experiencing a PMAD, consider reaching out for support.  Working with a therapist trained in perinatal mental health can help you to prevent, manage, and heal from a PMAD.  Whether you’re looking for a therapist, free support groups, or other information and resources, check out this guide to find perinatal mental health support in California.