Perinatal Mental Health
One of our specialities is working with women who experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, like postpartum depression . While trying to get pregnant and giving birth to a child is thought of as joyous occasions, it can also be met with heartache and distress, from pre-conception onwards. Women with infertility may struggle to manage their emotions of anxiety, depression, grief, and negative thoughts. During pregnancy, some women find themselves with unfamiliar emotions of stress and worry about the upcoming birth and parenthood. After birth, about 80% of new moms experience “baby blues,” feeling weepy, sad, and overwhelmed. While most women find that these emotions subside after 4 weeks, some continue to move deeper into sadness with symptoms such as: severe mood swings, intense irritability and anger, loss of appetite, insomnia, loss of interest in life, withdrawal from family, having scary thoughts and difficulty bonding with their baby.
If any of the above sound familiar, you are not alone. These symptoms are common, and with appropriate assessment and treatment, we can work on diminishing distressing symptoms and gaining back the joy and pleasure you deserve. You don’t have to go through this alone; We are here to help!
See below for more detailed information regarding specific perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Questions? Please do not hesitate to call or email any of our therapists. You can contact us here!
Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders
Perinatal mood & anxiety disorders refer to a group of disorders that occur during pregnancy or during the postpartum period. These disorders include depression, anxiety, panic, and obsessive compulsive disorder.
We refer to postpartum as the period of time after the birth of a baby. Most women are considered in the postpartum time frame for the first year after giving birth to their child.
After birth, about 80 percent of new moms experience “baby blues,” feeling weepy, sad, and overwhelmed. What causes the blues? Hormone levels drop, breasts become engorged, and new moms are exhausted. Emotional factors include being upset over the birth (maybe you planned it one way and it didn’t happen), feeling anxious about the well being of a baby, being nervous about the transition into motherhood, and also adjusting to the new routine. All of these can bring on the blues. But, the good thing is that typically baby blues don’t require any treatment and go away on their own. Things that can help include support from family and friends, rest, and time. Self care is important such as taking a hot shower, going for a walk, and eating healthy. Baby blues typically fade away in just a few weeks postpartum.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
While most baby blues clear up by 4 weeks, some Moms continue to move deeper into sadness with symptoms such as: severe mood swings, intense irritability and anger, loss of appetite, insomnia, loss of interest in life, withdrawal from family, having scary thoughts and difficulty bonding with their baby. These are symptoms of postpartum depression. Assessment is important in determining the most effective treatment for postpartum depression. Typical treatment options include: individual therapy, group counseling/support, and possible medication management. It is important for clients to be educated regarding their diagnosis and prognosis. This can be done in individual therapy. Therapeutic tools can be taught to help manage depression and emotional distress. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be used to help new moms challenge their self talk, and replace negative thoughts with more realistic ones. How long will it take to get better? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer. Generally, with treatment, postpartum depression may last weeks or several months. If left untreated, it could linger on for years. Postpartum depression is treatable!
Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)
Some Mom’s aren’t met with sadness and despair after the birth of their baby, but it is anxiety that causes distress. Symptoms of postpartum anxiety include: racing thoughts (can’t quiet your mind), excessive worry, irrational worry, inability to sit still and relax (always have to be doing something), lack of appetite, insomnia (even when given the opportunity to rest, you can’t), feeling jittery, and nauseousness. Evaluation during the postpartum period is important to ensure the proper treatment. Similar to postpartum depression, treatment options include individual therapy and/or medication management. Therapy can help to manage symptoms of anxiety and stress as well as challenge negative and irrational thinking. Postpartum anxiety is treatable!
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (PPOCD)
A smaller percentage of Moms may experience symptoms such as intrusive or disturbing obsessive thoughts. These thoughts are typically persistent repetitive thoughts or images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and most of the time this is something that has never been experienced prior. Compulsions are actions that reduce fears and obsessions such as checking things many times, cleaning constantly, or counting and reordering things. Other symptoms may include fear of being alone with the baby as well as fear of leaving him or her with anyone else. Moms may seem hypervigilant in taking safety precautions concerning their baby. Postpartum Support International also notes that Moms who experience these disturbing thoughts know that these thoughts are bizarre, and would never act on them. Evaluation during the postpartum period is important to ensure the proper treatment. Medication and individual therapy can help to manage the anxiety as well as challenge disturbing thoughts and irrational thinking. PPOCD is a temporary and treatable condition!
Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPPTSD)
Postpartum Support International states that only 1-6% of new moms may experience postpartum post traumatic stress disorder. This is typically caused by a real or perceived trauma at birth or postpartum. Examples of traumas could be and unplanned c-section or if the baby has to go to the NICU. Women who have previously experienced trauma such as physical abuse, sexual assault, or rape, are at higher risk for developing postpartum PTSD. Symptoms may include: flashbacks, intrusive re-experiencing of the traumatic event, avoidance of anything that triggers thought of the event, nightmares, and panic attacks. Evaluation during the postpartum period is important to ensure the proper treatment. Medication and individual therapy can help to reduce anxiety, manage thoughts and triggers, and help with coping skills. PPPTSD is a temporary and treatable condition!
Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)
Postpartum psychosis is very rare, and typically comes on suddenly within the first four weeks after giving birth. Symptoms may include: hallucinations, delusions or strange beliefs, mania, rapid mood swings, hyperactivity, paranoia or suspiciousness, and difficulty concentrating. Postpartum Psychosis in a medical emergency and immediate treatment is required. Women with postpartum psychosis experience a “break with reality,” and there is a 5% risk of infanticide or suicide associated with the illness. This is because women start to believe their hallucinations and delusions and are unable to decipher from what is real and what is not. Postpartum psychosis is a temporary and treatable condition with immediate help. Call your doctor, call a crisis emergency line such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or go to the emergency room for immediate help.