Perinatal mental health
What is Perinatal Mental Health?
Perinatal Mental Health is the practice of supporting women, men and families through the pregnancy, delivery and postpartum period. The "perinatal period" is considered any time from conception to baby's first birthday (and sometimes beyond). Perinatal Mental Health specialists seek to support women and families around mental health needs related to this time period including but not limited to:
*Fear of giving birth (tokophobia....yes, it has a name!)
*Pregnancy hormonal and mood changes
*Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (or PMADs) are a set of mental health issues that can occur around the perinatal period. Commonly seen in women soon after giving birth, these can also affect women during pregnancy as well as non-biological mothers, fathers, and family members. They can range from lower level symptoms of distress to more rare, but serious, mental health crises. Below are some of the common conditions that may occur:
Postpartum Depression can begin during the pregnancy or up to the first year postpartum. A woman with PPD might experience feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, throughs of hopeless and, sometimes, even thoughts of harming the baby or herself (Postpartum Support International, 2021).
Postpartum Anxiety may manifest as stress, overwhelm or fear around taking care of baby. A woman with PPA may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling (Postpartum Support International, 2021).
Postpartum OCD symptoms may look like repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These moms find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them (Postpartum Support International 2021).
Posttraumatic stress disorder relating to pregnancy or postpartum may be in relation to a traumatic event having to do with the pregnancy, childbirth or past trauma. Symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event (Postpartum Support International, 2021).
Bipolar depression is more severe than "mood swings" and can often be indicative of a mental health crisis or need for medication evaluation. Many women are diagnosed for the first time with bipolar depression or mania during pregnancy or postpartum. Bipolar mood disorder can appear as a severe depression; women need informed evaluation and follow-up on past and current mood changes and cycles to assess whether there is a bipolar dynamic (Postpartum Support International, 2021).
Postpartum psychosis often shows up within the first week or two after giving birth. Those who suffer from postpartum psychosis may experience hearing voices or seeing images that others may not. These hallucinations may cause mothers to think or believe bizarre or harmful things about themselves, their baby or those around them, sometimes to the point of behaving dangerously. Symptoms may include reported need for little to no sleep, rapid mood swings, paranoia or marked change in mood or affect. While this condition is often sensationalized and labeled as "Postpartum", it represents an extremely small population of postpartum women. Nevertheless, this is an extremely severe condition and warrants an immediate behavioral health evaluation. (Postpartum Support International, 2021).