Most of us know someone who has had some experience with a Perinatal Mood Disorder (PMD).  It’s an all-too-common condition that approximately 14-25% of women who are pregnant or who give birth will experience.  That doesn’t mean that it is limited to the most commonly known PPD (postpartum depression).  There are a few different conditions that can affect the mental health of pregnant and postpartum women.  

Two recent studies have shown that postpartum anxiety and postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are much more common than previously thought.

As it turns out, not only is postpartum OCD much more common than previously thought, it appears as though postpartum anxiety may actually be more common than Postpartum Depression (PPD).  It is not nearly as frequently screened for as PPD, but we have learned recently that it can affect as many as 17% of women as early as two weeks post baby, and that it can remain more common than PPD even 6 months later.

You can develop postpartum mood disorders up to 12 months after you have your baby.

You can also develop them anytime during your pregnancy.  If you are experiencing symptoms, even at your baby’s first birthday, don’t write them off, seek help.

It can be difficult to differentiate between the exhaustion and disorientation that comes with pregnancy and new parenthood and a mood or anxiety disorder. 

New parenthood (and pregnancy) usually includes times of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and can even be accented with loneliness, increased or lack of appetite, and sadness.  All of these things can be symptoms of PMD or anxiety.  Having a postpartum doula to offer unconditional support, a safe space to ask questions and let out fears and concerns, and to have help with finding the right rhythm for your particular family’s unique needs can help when you feel overwhelmed.  Support and rest is critical for new families, and while a doula can’t guarantee that you or your partner won’t experience PMADs, he or she can help with the other stuff so you are better able to discern when medical help is needed.

And speaking of partners…

Your partner may be just as likely to experience postpartum depression as you are.

While most of the information focuses on fathers, all partners can experience postpartum depression.  They may experience similar symptoms as their partners, but they also experience other unique symptoms such as irritability, detachment, and emotional withdrawal.

Your birth experiences will affect your postpartum year, and can affect whether you develop a PMAD.

Stay with me on this one.  It isn’t the actual end result of your birth that matters on this point.  In fact, it is “a [mother’s] perceptions of those experiences.”  We all know (or we should all know) that neither a doctor, nor a fully prepared couple, nor a labor/birth doula can guarantee the outcome of any birth.  The good news is that even when your birth throws you a curveball and things don’t go according to plan, if you and your partner feel prepared, supported, and not judged, you can still come away from your birth feeling positive and empowered, even when it doesn’t go the way you had hoped.  

This where a doula can truly help.  As a doula, our job is to provide a space for the expectant parents to voice concerns, ask questions, feel listened to, and to facilitate their ability to communicate with their chosen and trusted care provider(s).  Even when their birth plans go awry, if they are adequately prepared and supported, they can have the beautiful birth they desire.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, or PTSD, please seek help from your trusted medical providers.  The wonderful news is that it is 100% treatable and you can recover!  

 

 

Erin Stephens is a labor and postpartum doula, ALC, and the Education Director of Mom2Mom-Ft. Bragg located in Fayetteville, NC.  View her website at www.erinstephensbirth.com