Perinatal Mental and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) affect at least one million pregnant and new moms every year. They are the #1 complication due to childbirth and the second leading cause of maternal death.
We hear a lot about Postpartum Depression (PPD) and feeling sad, crying a lot, and having a loss of interest. But did you know that PPD isn’t the only mental illness to watch out for? And did you know that PPD doesn’t always mean you’re sad?
Here are 4 facts about PMAD’s that may surprise you:
It’s more than depression
PMADs include: Depression, Anxiety, OCD, Bi-Polar, Psychosis, and Post Traumatic Stress. They can occur at any point 12 months after the birth of your child, as well as after weaning from breastfeeding. Women who have a history of mental illness, have suffered a previous loss, or struggled with infertility have a higher chance of developing a PMAD. You can read a little more about each illness here.
You can develop them during pregnancy
I wish I had known this when I was pregnant with G. I knew I needed to be on the lookout for postpartum depression because of my history with anxiety and depression. But I had never heard of pregnancy anxiety or depression.
Neither my husband nor I felt my level of anxiety was normal during G's pregnancy. My OB constantly waved it off as “normal due to previous miscarriage.” Had I been aware that pregnancy anxiety and depression were real things, I might have been more persistent in getting help before my symptoms got worse at birth.
You’re not always sad
Moms with perinatal depression or anxiety can feel irritated or angry. She may show resentment towards her partner or baby. She’s ragey.
Postpartum rage didn’t really hit me until I tried weaning from my antidepressant for the first time when G was about six months old. I never knew what would set me off, and it’s what made me seek professional help from a therapist after G was born.
You can’t sit still
Moms with postpartum anxiety and/or OCD may feel like they have to be constantly doing something: washing, tidying, checking on the baby. She might feel restless.
I was obsessed with cleaning our kitchen. The floor had to be swept and mopped before heading upstairs for the night. It drove my husband nuts, but these things needed to be done in order for me to feel settled for the night. I had no idea this was part of my postpartum anxiety.
Your brain can’t stay quiet
When I was diagnosed with postpartum depression six weeks after G was born, I started taking Zoloft. After a couple of days I had the odd realization that my brain seemed clearer – and quieter. I had NO idea there was so much noise going on in my head. What I experienced during those first six weeks or so was best described as static. Constant static.
Only 15% of women suffering from a maternal mental illness seek treatment. This is due in part to the stigmas associated with mental illnesses, but I’ve found through talking with other moms and friends that we're not always fully educated on what to look for.
In an effort to reduce stigma and raise awareness, I’m co-leading Fredericksburg’s Climb Out of the Darkness event. This year, our walk benefits Postpartum Support International, the leading non-profit dedicated to helping families struggling with PMADs.
Whether you’re a new mom, a seasoned mom, a spouse, a friend, or someone who wants to see more awareness brought to maternal mental health, I hope you’ll join us. We’ll be meeting at the Massad Family YMCA on Saturday, June 24 and taking a one-mile walk to honor our personal journeys and help raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with perinatal mental and anxiety disorders.
Team Fredericksburg - Climb Out of the Darkness 2016
Read about 2016’s Climb.
Read about 2015’s Climb.
Read about the first Climb I (officially) attended in 2014.