Maternal Mental Health

Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Postpartum Depression has traditionally been used as a general term to describe the mental health issues that can occur in childbearing women. Experts now refer to these as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders or PMADs because the name encompasses the full spectrum of conditions that pregnant and postpartum women can develop during pregnancy or up to one year after childbirth. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression or anxiety just like 15-20% of all childbearing women, don't wait for symptoms to become worse before seeking treatment. Make the courageous decision to get help now. My clinical expertise ensures that you receive compassionate and knowledgeable support to guide you through this common and treatable illness.

Factors That May Impact A Woman's Maternal Mental Health

  • Inadequate support system
  • Personal or family history of mood/anxiety disorders 
  • History of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Recent life transition or crisis
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Difficult pregnancy
  • Marital/partner strain
  • Poor relationship with own mother
  • Negative perception of birth experience
  • Difficulties related to breastfeeding
  • Health-compromised infant
  • Prior loss of pregnancy or child
  • Twins and multiples

Symptoms of Perinatal Anxiety + Mood Disorders

DEPRESSION→ Approximately 21% of women experience depression following childbirth. Symptoms may include: sadness anger, rage, fear, guilt; lack of interest in the baby;  appetite and sleep disturbances; difficulty concentrating or making decisions; possible thoughts of harming the baby or oneself. 

GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER→ Excessive and uncontrollable worry; being “on edge” or irritability; chronic fatigue, poor sleep and concentration. Physical symptoms can include: headaches, muscle tension, nausea, diarrhea and other GI distress. 

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER→ It is estimated that as many as 11% of new mothers experience intrusive thoughts or mental images often related to endangerment of the baby. The distressing thoughts may be accompanied by avoidance of certain things or doing things over and over to reduce the fear. Mothers know their thoughts are bizarre and feel horrified by them. They are very unlikely to ever act on them.

PANIC DISORDER→ This is a form of anxiety that occurs in up to 11% of new mothers. Symptoms include: feeling very nervous, sudden intense fear or distress; having recurring panic attacks (shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations), many worries and fears such as a fear of going crazy or of losing control.

POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER→ Can develop after experiencing an event that threatened the mother or a loved one's life such as a childbirth trauma or an infant's NICU stay. Symptoms include: intrusive and recurrent memories, nightmares, and flashbacks; avoidance of trauma-related thoughts, feelings, or external reminders; irritability; angry outbursts; difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance; easily startled; sleep and appetite changes.

POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS→ Occurs in only 1-2 out of 1000 childbearing women. Symptoms include: rapid shifts in mood, confusion, erratic behavior, delusions, and hallucination. This condition requires immediate help.

Although symptoms of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) may overlap with the "Baby Blues" that 80% of new mothers experience, PMADs are different because they last longer than 2-3 weeks after childbirth and generally do not get better on their own.

Statistics from The Postpartum Stress Center and Selini Institute.

If you need immediate help, DO NOT WAIT. Call 911 or one of these 24/7 hotlines:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

  • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE

  • National Postpartum Depression Hotline: 1-800-PPD-MOMS