One in five women will develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy or within 12 months of giving birth.
You’re pregnant. Your baby is here. And you’re not sure why you are so anxious or sad or depressed, or why you’re having those really scary thoughts. You wonder, isn’t this supposed to be IT, the happiest time of my life? This is what I wanted, right?
But that’s not what’s happening for you. You’re up at 2am with a crying (screaming) baby, or bouncing on the ball day and night so your baby will sleep. Baby won’t sleep. You can’t sleep. You’re tired. So tired and yet, you can’t put the baby down because you’re worried. You want to make sure you can see the baby breathing, feel the baby move. You’re afraid of some of the thoughts you’re having. Scary thoughts. You hold the baby and avoid certain places in your house, or leaving the house at all. You want to sleep but you just can’t. You wonder if you’re ever going to be able to “do this”. The worry and anxiety is worrying! You’ve probably heard about Postpartum Depression (PPD) but you’re not clear on all this anxiety you’re feeling is about. And if you’re pregnant, you may be even more confused by all the difficult emotions you’re experiencing when you haven’t even had the baby yet.
PPD is one of many Maternal Mental Health Disorders or Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs), including Perinatal Anxiety, Perinatal Traumatic Stress Disorder, Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Perinatal Psychosis. It’s common to wonder, “why me?”, What did I do wrong?”. You did nothing wrong. PMADs are extremely common; 15-20% of new moms will develop a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder. There are many risk factors for developing one, some biological (nature) and others are environmental (nurture). These are some of the risk factors for developing maternal mental health disorders:
- Personal or family history of mental illness Including but not limited to depression, anxiety and postpartum depression.
- Traumatic pregnancy or birth Did you have: HG, were you on bed rest? Have an emergency C-section; was your baby in the NICU? etc.
- Difficult experiences around pregnancy or birth Infertility, miscarriages, multiples: Is your baby special needs, colicky, or have a difficult temperament? Have you had challenges feeding your baby?
- A history of domestic violence, physical, sexual or other abuse
- A traumatic childhood People often underestimate the impact of childhood trauma on their lives as adults. Even if you think you’re over it, profound childhood experiences have lasting effects.
- Stress Significant changes in your life can greatly impact your emotional health- moving, relationship challenges, losing a loved one or losing a job.
- Lack of social support Do you feel like there’s no one you can confide in? Is your partner deployed? Does your family live in another part of the country/world?
Personality While not technically a risk factor, Karen Kleiman, an expert in the field, has labeled certain personality traits as clinically relevant in the development of PPD or anxiety, including perfectionism, controlling or low self-esteem. Other symptoms of PPD and other Perinatal Mood Disorders include:
- feelings of helplessness and/ or hopelessness
- difficulty in making decisions
- changes in sleeping and/ or eating patterns
- isolation and withdrawal from community and loved ones
- frequent feelings of “I can’t do this”
- not feeling like yourself
- intrusive thoughts, images, fears of harm coming to your baby that you can not stop and that you know are wrong
- irritability, impatience, rage
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty attaching and bonding to your baby
- In the most serious cases, seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there and/ or beliefs that are not based in reality
(You may experience all of these symptoms or only a few)
The good news is that no matter which of these illnesses or symptoms you might be experiencing, they are temporary and very treatable with professional help. Call us. Our maternal mental health clinicians can help slow you down, help you learn tools to cope with the these uncomfortable emotions, the worry that consumes you. Together we will help you relax, trust your intuition and enjoy being with your baby.
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