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6 Things You Need to Know About Perinatal Mood Disorders

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Having a baby is something people routinely celebrate. If you’re struggling with your mental health, however, you might have mixed feelings. That can be confusing because you’re “supposed” to be happy, but your mood might not match the occasion. If you find yourself struggling with your mental health during or after pregnancy, know you’re not alone.

Postpartum or perinatal mood disorders are relatively common. According to Postpartum Support International, 15 to 20% of women will experience symptoms of depression or anxiety during or after pregnancy, though the reason behind these feelings is unclear. There is no single cause. Perinatal mood disorders affect women of all ages, races, income levels, and religions. But there is help. There is hope.

Here are six things you need to know about postpartum and perinatal mood disorders.

1. Perinatal mood disorders can occur during pregnancy and after.

While anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and bipolar disorder can strike at any time, perinatal mood disorders are those which affect women during pregnancy or after. The symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder can appear any time during baby’s first year. Of course, this may be contrary to what you’ve heard. Many believe the “baby blues” occur within the first two weeks, but that is not the case.

2. Depression is but one condition you may experience.

While postpartum depression is the most prevalent and well-known perinatal mood disorder, there are several others, including:

  • Pre- and postpartum anxiety
  • Pre- and postpartum OCD
  • Postpartum psychosis
  • Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

3. The symptoms of perinatal mood disorders vary from person-to-person.

Because there are so many different types of mood disorders that can occur during or after pregnancy, there are dozens of different symptoms you may experience. Some common feelings, thoughts and reactions include:

  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Living in a state of constant worry or dread
  • Crying and sadness
  • Feeling that something bad is going to happen
  • Experiencing panic attacks
  • Experiencing disturbances with your sleep or appetite
  • Losing interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty regulating your feelings and having extreme mood swings
  • Experiencing visual or auditory hallucinations

4. Being diagnosed with a pre- or postpartum mood disorder is not a reflection on you as a person or parent.

If you are feeling sad, anxious, distant, hopeless, helpless, or scared, know this: You are not weak, bad, “crazy” or alone. Perinatal mood disorders are illnesses, not faults, flaws or defects of character. Understand your condition is just that, a medical condition. Realize many women have felt the same way as you, and these feelings do not make them bad people or parents. Treat yourself as you would a sick friend.

5. Pre- and postpartum mood disorders can last anywhere from a few weeks to a full year.

Just like a perinatal mood disorder can occur up to a year after you give further, the symptoms of perinatal mood disorders can last for several weeks, months or a year; however, the intensity and duration of said symptoms will vary, depending how your condition is treated.

6. Perinatal mood disorders are treatable.

No matter what you are feeling, there is hope. Pre- and postpartum mood disorders can be treated and managed. How? With medication and therapy. Antidepressants can be very effective in the treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression, John Hopkins reported. Mood stabilizers are typically used to treat postpartum psychosis or bipolar disorder and a combination of psychotherapy and anti-anxiety meds are used to treat anxiety disorders.

For more information about perinatal mood disorders and/or to find resources in your area, contact Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773 or visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

Header image via Ilyuza Mingazova/Unsplash

Originally published: September 29, 2020
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