What are PMADs?
The term "perinatal mental health" is used to describe maternal mental health "all around birth" from conception through the first year after giving birth. Research has shown that at least 1 in 5 mothers experience symptoms of depression following childbirth as well as 1 in 10 fathers.
Shame, guilt and misunderstanding can often make it difficult to talk openly about symptoms experienced at this time and as result, many do not receive help that is desperately needed. Parental depression during the perinatal period is not something to take in stride as it can lead to decreased positive parenting and adverse childhood outcomes. Reaching out for help is a strength and finding a trained therapist to work with can be the first step to feeling better. This experience does not last forever and evidenced based treatment does help.
Unlike the more short-term mood fluctuations experienced after giving birth referred as "baby blues;" mood changes that extend past the first few weeks following birth or reappear at any period within the first year postpartum should seek consultation. This also includes mood changes related to pregnancy loss, infant loss and for families who have adopted. These conditions are referred to as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and are the most common obstetric complication in the United States (Pediatrics, 2019).
PMADs encompass much more than what commonly comes to mind from the term "postpartum depression." Mothers can experience not only depression but also agitation, irritability, apathy, rage, sleep disturbances, anxiety, panic, intrusive thoughts and fears, obsessive compulsive behaviors, acute stress reactions, post traumatic stress reactions, mania and psychosis. These conditions can affect people at any time during their lives, however there is an increased risk during the perinatal period and symptoms have a unique presentation. When left untreated, poor maternal mental health can lead to long term and adverse complications for mother, child and whole family.
Research demonstrates that PMADs are a universal experience and do not discriminate. Anyone can be impacted. There is no need to feel ashamed or to navigate this period on your own. Compassionate and non-judgmental help is here.
Earls, M., Yogman, M., Mattson, G., Rafferty, J. (2019). Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal Depression Into Pediatric Practice. Pediatrics, 143 (1). http://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-3259