There’s a common misconception that pregnancy and caring for a new baby is the happiest time of a woman’s life; it’s thought that she should feel an immediate and strong bond with her baby and be blissful all the time. Yet, this is often not the case, which may make some new moms feel like they’re doing something wrong if they cannot live up to this scenario.
Most new moms may experience something called the baby blues. This common, temporary phenomenon occurs during the first two weeks after giving birth. Signs of baby blues may include:
- Excessive worrying
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
About 80 percent of new moms will experience the baby blues. If symptoms continue past two weeks postpartum, it may be a sign of something called a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD).
PMAD is an umbrella term that covers any mental health condition during pregnancy and up to one year postpartum. These conditions can include depression, generalized anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Up to one in five women will experience PMAD in their lifetime. For some women, hormone fluctuations affect how they respond to stress making them more susceptible to PMAD. Women with a history of mental health conditions should talk with their providers before becoming pregnant as they may be at an increased risk.
Here are a few signs and symptoms to watch for:
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed before baby
- Feeling irritable
- Worrying or feeling guilty often
- Inability to sleep or stay asleep
- Having distressing thoughts of harm to self or baby
If you or someone you know experiences symptoms of PMAD, it’s important to seek medical help. Reaching out to an OB/GYN or primary care provider and talking to someone about how you are feeling are important steps. A health care provider can help direct to the appropriate care and resources. Options for treatment of PMAD include medication, therapy and self-care.
Taking care of oneself is very important during pregnancy and postpartum. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, exercising and showering regularly, getting out of the house every day and accepting offers of help.
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network created The Periscope Project in 2017 to help health care providers diagnose and manage the mental health concerns of perinatal patients. Through the program, providers are able to connect with perinatal psychiatrists in real time to discuss questions about screening tools, treatment options, next steps and more. They can also find resources to connect patients with the right service at the right time. It’s a wonderful program that helps more women get the help they need to manage and treat PMAD.
To learn more about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, talk to your primary care provider. To find a primary care provider near you, reach out to your health insurance provider.