Common but not Normal: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
"I had so many friends tell me it was normal."
I can't tell you the number of clients I have had who say those words to me.
"My mom said she went through it too and it was super normal."
Too often new parents are steered into treacherous and even dangerous territory as they get to know their new baby and recover because the hardships of parenthood are shoved under a rug. As a Birth and Postpartum Doula I'm super passionate about making sure that my clients are well taken care of physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I start seeing red flags, I immediately take note.
While there is still the need for more studies specifically about mental health and the perinatal period, the most common Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) has recently been pegged as Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). There's a certain level of caution that comes with having a new baby but that can escalate to a point that it is hard to live life. Often the anxiety surrounds the health of baby but it also plays out in ways you may not have considered. A common symptom is the occurrence of intrusive thoughts.
While Postpartum Anxiety is very prevalent, often people jump to Postpartum Depression (PPD) as a possible diagnosis. Postpartum Depression is characterized by thoughts of hopelessness, sadness, and a general low feeling. Tiredness, loss of appetite, and loss of interest in things you once loved are also common symptoms. Postpartum Depression is more widely known to the point that "postpartum" is often used as shorthand.
These are the two most common diagnoses but it's important to acknowledge that these are not the only ones. Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (PPOCD) and Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), while less common in occurrence, are other possible problems new parents may face. PPOCD is characterized with compulsions, intrusive thoughts, excessive fear for baby's safety, and fear of being left alone with baby. PPP is a quick-onset illness that often comes with delusions, paranoia, loss of inhibition, hallucinations, and mania. It must be treated immediately by a physician. Postpartum Psychosis sufferers are a danger to themselves and their babies and should be taken to their OB or the Emergency Room as soon as possible.
All in all, it's important that we acknowledge these very real illnesses and have them treated as soon as possible.
You don't have to suffer for parenthood.
I don't want you to suffer for parenthood.
Don't sweep PMADs under the rug. Sure, they're common.
But they're not normal.
♥ - M