Perinatal Mood Disorders
What does Perinatal mean?
Perinatal means the period all around birth, from the beginning of pregnancy until one year after birth.
What to expect in the perinatal period?
Having a baby is a big life event. It is normal to feel a range of emotions during pregnancy and after birth. It is important to know what emotions are expected during this time and when it is important to seek help.
The Baby Blues
Most women feel restless and emotional in the days following birth. You may feel weepy, anxious and irritable as well as experiencing mood swings. This is called the baby blues and is a normal adjustment to the drop of oestrogen and
hormone changes in your body. The baby blues usually resolve themselves by two weeks postpartum.
Perinatal Mood Disorders (PMDs)
If symptoms develop during your pregnancy and in the weeks and months after birth you may be suffering from a Perinatal Mood Disorder. When symptoms last over 72 hours with no relief and starts impacting your ability to care for your baby, yourself and your ability to function in your daily tasks, it is time to seek help.
What are Perinatal Mood Disorders and what are their symptoms?
Perinatal Anxiety (PA)
Persistent racing thoughts, worrying, lack of concentration, irritability, Sleep disturbance, physical tension and loss of appetite.
PTSD and Birth Trauma
Flashbacks and nightmares, anxiety and panic about a certain event. Persistent increased arousal, hypervigilance and exaggerated startled response. Difficulty sleeping.
Persistent intrusive thoughts, often about the baby, regularly repeated compulsions to reduce fear. Experiencing images and visons which are horrific and seem very real and may lead to avoiding bonding with baby.
Perinatal Depression (PD)
Often develops when other mood disorders are not treated. Crying and intense sadness, a loss of interest in activities that once brought joy and pleasure, bouts of extreme irritability and rage. Lack of interest in baby. Thoughts of self harm
Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)
This is a very serious disorder which affects 0.1% of new mothers. Extreme confusion, delusions or strange beliefs, refusal to eat. Seeing or hearing things that do not exist, extreme irritability and feeling hyper, rapid mood swing, seemingly no need for sleep and paranoia.
Difficulty adjusting to the change of having a baby.
What can you do about a Perinatal Mood Disorder?
Firstly it is important to note that this is not your fault and your diagnosis does not make you a bad or incompetent parent. Perinatal Mood Disorders are very common, affecting 1 in 4 women and with treatment most women go on to make a full recovery.
A therapist who is specialised in perinatal mental health is very beneficial. They have been trained to answer your question correctly and can provide validation and a safe place to express your feelings. They can also teach you tools to help alleviate your symptoms.
Medications have a high success rate in treating Perinatal Mood Disorders. Some women worry about having to take medication long term or that it might harm their baby when breastfeeding. In reality most women take medication for PMDs temporarily (a few months to a year) until they feel better and many antidepressants have been proven safe for breastfeeding mothers. Always discuss any concerns with your GP or health provider.
Talking to friends and family who care or to people who understand and can provide support and encouragement. Click here for more information on how friends and family can support recovery
It is important to look after yourself during your recovery, looking after your health and making time to do activities you enjoy.