Over the last decade, there has been a flurry of attention given to perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) otherwise referred to as postpartum depression. Famous women like Gwyneth Paltrow, Chrissy Teigen, Adele, and many more inspiring people have come forward with their personal PMAD struggles. National medical associations like the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) now recommend screening for PMADs during pregnancy, postpartum and at child well visits. These are critical steps in changing the conversation and stigma that have historically surrounded PMADs.
Another critical step is education. It’s imperative for all providers that come in contact with new and expecting parents to look out for the signs and symptoms of PMADs.
PMADs are the most common birth complication – higher than gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. If we all know what PMADs look like, then we can introduce early intervention and support to help new and expecting parents feel better.
1 in 5 new and expecting mothers* experience PMAD – it can feel like they’re drowning in an endless, dark sea, just waiting for someone to throw a life preserver.
Those of us who do this work know that number is really 1 in 3.
From trying to conceive to becoming pregnant and entering the postpartum journey: we know the wide range of emotions that are normal to feel. Becoming a new parent is stressful and some difficulty adjusting to parenthood is considered normal.
The normal postpartum adjustment may involve symptoms similar to Baby Blues (sad, irritable, absolutely exhausted, crying at the drop of a hat) and it’s likely that most experience some of these symptoms during the first few months after childbirth. However, if these symptoms are interfering with normal coping abilities, functioning, or parenting, something more serious, like a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), may be happening.
An acupuncturist, for example, doesn’t need to be a professional mental health provider to recognize a PMAD. The of the signs that can be easily detected for someone trained are:
- Excessive worry about the pregnancy or the new baby – contacting their providers multiple times a day.
- Frequent crying paired with statements like “I’m a failure,” “I can’t do anything right,” “I’ve made a huge mistake” and so on.
- Obsessive cleaning (of bottles or laundry for example).
- Ruminations about harm coming to the baby.
- Feelings of hopelessness & helplessness as well as refraining from seeing friends and family or leaving the house.
- Difficulty sleeping when the baby sleeps at night or sleeping all the time.
- A lack of appetite
- Difficulty taking care of the baby or themselves.
- Feelings of irritability, anger, and sometimes rage.
- In severe cases, thoughts of suicide or ending the baby’s life.
With proper awareness and training, an acupuncturist or a loved one can feel comfortable and confident recognizing these symptoms and having a conversation about them.
They could say, “Becoming a new parent is one of the hardest things you can do, we don’t talk enough about the hard part. It’s very common to feel anxious and overwhelmed by this new responsibility – it can feel like it’s too much. What has it been like for you?”
If they say they are really struggling a response might be, “I have heard so many say exactly the same thing. You are not alone, and you can feel much better with the right support. I have some resources to help you get through this challenging time and enjoy this time with your new baby more. Should we make the call together?” Practitioners, partners, and other family members also play a critical role and can be educated on where to go for help.
Today more than ever, families have access to virtual care and telemedicine. Please call us at The Motherhood Center at 212-335-0034 if you or someone you know might be struggling with a PMAD. We are here to help and support you every step of the way.
The Motherhood Center
Treatment at The Motherhood Center ranges from a Day Program for new and expecting moms with acute PMADs with an onsite nursery, outpatient therapy and medication management for women with mild to moderate symptoms, and support groups.
Please know that you are not alone, we are here for you. The more we know what PMADs look like – and we share our collective experiences with PMADs – the more we destigmatize them and make it easier for women to seek treatment.
* Language used in the study referenced.