I haven’t felt like myself…
Do I have a PMAD?
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), otherwise known as “postpartum depression,” are a group of symptoms that can affect women/birthing people during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, causing emotional and physical problems that make it hard to enjoy life and function well. Mood disorders, such as depression, can include symptoms of sadness, loss of pleasure, difficulty concentrating, and changes in energy. Anxiety disorders often include symptoms such as worrying too much, panic attacks, irritability, and obsessionality. See below for more specific descriptions of normal mood variations that occur with childbirth, as well as different types of mood and anxiety disorders that can affect pregnant and postpartum women/birthing people.
What are PMADs?
60% and 80% of women/birthing people experience what professionals describe as the “baby blues,” or feelings of exhaustion, irritation, and sadness after having given birth.
These symptoms typically begin anywhere from one to three days post-delivery and may last between two and fourteen days.
If your feelings persist past two weeks, however, contact a professional- you may be experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).
Any woman/birthing person who is pregnant or has given birth within the past 12 months can receive this diagnosis if they experience some of the following symptoms:
- Low mood, sadness, tearfulness
- Loss of interest, joy, or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Agitation or anxiety
- Lack of energy or feeling slowed down physically
- Difficulty concentrating
- Appetite or sleep disturbance
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
Most new pregnant and/or new mothers/birthing people feel as though they have a thousand things to worry about after having a baby. However, if your feelings of anxiety are interfering with your overall functioning, you may be experiencing perinatal anxiety.
- Constant worrying
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Feeling like you can’t turn your brain off
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Physical symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, and nausea
Many mothers experience perinatal OCD without ever having any previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. You may be experiencing perinatal OCD if you encounter any of the following symptoms during the pregnancy or postpartum period:
- Obsessions also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images regarding the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting.
- Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to try to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, checking things many times, and counting or reordering things.
It’s important to know that mothers/birthing people with postpartum OCD understand the strange nature of their thoughts and are disturbed by them. Therefore the likelihood of ever acting upon these intrusions is very low.
- A sense of horror about these obsessions
- Fear of being left alone with the infant
- Hyper-vigilance in protecting the infant
Many pregnant/postpartum women and birthing people experience perinatal PTSD as a result of previous trauma, including physical or sexual abuse, or due to a traumatic birth. These symptoms can include:
- Intrusive reexperiencing of a past traumatic event (which may have been childbirth itself)
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places, and details
- Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response)
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
If you are seeing or hearing things other people are not, are feeling as though others are out to get you, or experiencing highly unusual thoughts regarding yourself or your child, you may be suffering from postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis is rather rare, affecting only 0.1-0.2% of all births. However, it is a serious disorder and requires immediate medical attention.
- Delusions or strange beliefs that feel real
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Feeling confused
- Feeling disconnected from reality
- Decreased need for or inability to sleep
- Paranoia and suspiciousness
- Difficulty communicating at times
While acts of harm to oneself or the baby are uncommon, women suffering from postpartum psychosis may do things they might not otherwise do, given their altered state. Therefore, seeking urgent attention from professionals is paramount to keeping you and your baby safe.
Please call 911 if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing postpartum psychosis.
What it feels like to have a PMAD
We encourage graduates of the Day Program and other PMAD survivors to share their stories in an effort to normalize maternal mental health, and offer permission to others who struggle – to ask for help.
“I knew I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety but had difficulty finding support. It was like I was living a bad dream and couldn’t wake up. They say if you find yourself in hell, keep going. So I did all the things: mindful yoga and meditation, a therapist who “got it,” and medication. Now I feel grateful to be on this wild ride of motherhood.”
– Rebecca H
“The isolation of new motherhood during a pandemic left me with a depression that I wasn’t prepared for. I am grateful that I already had a network of mental health professionals who identified what I was going through, and I am especially grateful that they recommended the Motherhood Center. The online support group was an immense help in making me feel less alone during an isolating time.”
– Amanda L
“After I had my first son, they placed him on my chest where he began to cry. I was happy he had arrived safely but waited for this movie moment where I fell in love. Days stretched into weeks and I struggled to make enough milk for him. As someone who helps people breastfeed for a living, I felt like a failure. Thoughts of failing snowballed from there. Why was everyone else doing better than me?”
What does treatment at The Motherhood Center look like?
The Day Program
The Day Program runs Monday – Friday from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Each day is a full day of evidence-based therapeutic group interventions. In addition, we have individual therapy and medication management, as well as psychoeducation, yoga, mindfulness and meditation, art therapy, and more.
We have a nursery staffed by seasoned infant care professionals. Infant and dyadic specialists are available to help strengthen the bond between the mom/birthing person and the baby.
Many women/birthing people that suffer from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders require therapy and/or medication to manage their symptoms. If therapy is recommended, you will be paired with one of our experienced perinatal therapists, and if medication is a part of your treatment plan, our reproductive psychiatrists will provide follow-up and management of your prescriptions.
The Motherhood Center offers a full array of virtual support groups for new and expecting mothers/birthing people. Whether you’re experiencing depression or anxiety – our groups can meet you where you’re at in your perinatal journey.
Please note that all of The Motherhood Center’s support groups are restricted to only new or expecting moms/birthing people. If you are a student or provider, please refrain from signing up for our groups.
“This program has given me my life back. A new, more rich life with my son. I didn’t want to be in my life, I was trying to escape my reality, filled with regret. Now I have a life I could never imagine, with joy, excitement & connection with my son.” – Day Program Graduate
“I came in feeling rejected by my baby and unable to care for her or myself. I’m leaving whole, able to care for my baby, myself, get back to work even.” – Day Program Graduate
“When I first started the Day Program, I was suffering from radical mood swings and was frightened by the pattern of my thoughts. Being surrounded by like-minded women and a care team who were genuinely interested in helping has saved my life.” – Day Program Graduate
“It is life-changing. It’s like a warm hug with friends you never knew you needed all working together to help each other.” – Day Program Graduate