by Tanya Thomas, APC
You mean there is more than postpartum depression? Yes. Let’s take a closer look at Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD’s). I work with moms – a lot of moms. I see a lot of worry around just about everything – from feeding schedules, to pumping, to sleep, etc.
The worst anxiety is around saying “I’m struggling”.
It gets in the way of getting help. The sideways looks from other moms… The worry that if I’m struggling as a new mom, I could end up being the next news story. And so, the new mom keeps her struggles to herself.
The first step is understanding that not all struggles are the same.
There are 6 different levels a mom may struggle at. Except for Baby Blues (first 2 week postpartum) all can occur anytime during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
Here’s a summary:
- Scary thoughts – An example is: falling down a flight of stairs with the baby. There is a piece of this that is instinct. The mom’s instinct is telling her to be careful with her baby, but the hormones, the lack of sleep, etc. can ramp this warning up into something scary. 90% of moms, in fact, struggle with scary thoughts. These scary thoughts are normal.
- Perinatal Anxiety – this tends to be around feeling crazy, losing control, and the “what-ifs”. Trying to get rid of anxiety only increases the anxiety a mom is feeling so it’s important for her to learn the difference between productive worry and worry that just eats up mental and emotional space.
- Perinatal Depression – this is the best friend of perinatal anxiety. Moms often feel that they simply do not feel like themselves – their appetite changes, they feel overwhelmed, sadness, guilt and shame, and mood swings just to name a few. Understanding the role that hormones play, the relationships the mother is living, and her personal and psychological history will help a new mom understand where she is and how to create the change needed for improved mental health.
- Perinatal OCD – moms may feel very anxious about their ability to care for the baby. So much so that they have a fear of harming their infant. They may engage in activities such as ordering or arranging the baby’s belongings to “help” them. Or constantly checking on the baby while sleeping. This hyper-vigilance gets in the way of the mom having time to care for herself.
- Perinatal PTSD – moms may be experiencing flashbacks to previous events. These flashbacks interrupt her everyday life. The flashbacks are spontaneous and may appear as dreams at night. She often feels invisible. You do not have to struggle through this alone.
- Perinatal Psychosis – these women lose touch with reality. The option of having tea on the moon with the president is a reality. This is a medical emergency. The news stories that we hear about women doing horrible things – they likely have perinatal psychosis.
Please remember that:
Thoughts Do Not Equal Actions
Just because you are having scary thoughts does not make you a bad mom. Help is around the corner.
There are no sideways looks in my office.
There are no headlines in the news.
Only one real mama to another – this is hard – we can get through it together. You can thrive.
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Learn more about Tanya and Maternal Mental Health here!