One out of five birthing people will experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). With PMADs being so common, why are there so many people who still misunderstand what perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are? When families don’t know the signs and symptoms, birthing people or their partners (yes, partners can also experience PMADs), don’t get help. It’s important to know some of the myths about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders in order to normalize them and seek treatment.
Let’s start by defining what Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are. PMADs can begin anytime during pregnancy through the first year postpartum. Often it peaks at 3 months after giving birth, but it may be later which is why they may not be detected. The general population may not know that PMADs can happen in pregnancy. I’ve seen many expectant mothers in my practice with severe anxiety who go on to have a rewarding first year with their baby because they were able to recognize that something didn’t feel right and got help as soon as possible.
Many people may be familiar with postpartum depression, but don’t realize that other disorders fall into the umbrella of PMADs. Some symptoms cross over so it’s not uncommon to have symptoms of more than disorder. Here’s a list of what is considered a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.
- Postpartum Depression.
- Postpartum Anxiety
- Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Postpartum Bipolar Disorder
- Postpartum Psychosis (very rare, 1 in 1,000)
So let’s break down the myths to understand PMADs better.
Myth: Postpartum Depression (PPD) means someone is tearful all the time and can’t get out of bed.
While it’s true that severe cases of PPD may exhibit these symptoms, PPD can look different than this. Sometimes PPD shows up as irritability or rage. It could also look like feelings of regret, loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness.
Myth: People with PDD harm their babies.
The media often portrays PPD as women who harm their children or engage in infanticide. While this can be an incredibly devasting consequence of untreated Postpartum Psychosis, it is important to remember that suicidal individauls with PPD or Postpartum Bipolar Disorders often continue to go on because they love their children so much and can’t imagine leaving them.
Myth: All people who have PMADs feel disconnected from their children.
While some may feel this way, it’s not always the case. Many people feel very connected and yet feel very scared at the same time. They may have scary images or thoughts of something bad happening but feel scared because their connection is so great and this feels terrifying. They know they would never do anything to harm their child(ren).
Myth: If you have PPD, you will have to be hospitalized.
There are different severities of postpartum depression. There may be times when the depression is so severe that hospitalization is necessary to keep someone safe. However, many people recover without being hospitalized.
Myth: Everyone feels super stressed and overwhelmed. You just have to power through it.
Sure, there is a normal level of stress and adjustment that comes with being a new parent, but it shouldn’t feel so overwhelming that it’s hard to cope.
Understanding the myths of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can often be the first step in understanding that it’s okay and time to seek help. The good news is that PMADs are very treatable and the earlier you seek help from a certified perinatal mental health therapist, the sooner you can begin to feel better and enjoy this time in your life.
If you are looking for support and live in California or Texas, please contact me for a free 15 minute chat to see if we would be a good fit in working together.
Please note that this article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice from a doctor or mental health professional.