All About PMADs • Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders
by Natalie Fitzgerald
PMADs - let’s talk about it.
Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders affect 1 in 5 expecting and new moms. They can come on any time during pregnancy and through the first year of a baby’s life. It’s likely that you or a close friend has experienced one or more of these illnesses. PMADs can be devastating and all-consuming, and robs so many new moms of the joy a new baby can bring to their lives.
What are PMADs?
Under this umbrella, most commonly talked about is “Postpartum Depression (PPD)”, but there are other emotional disorders that fall under this larger category
that can be just as detrimental to a mother’s health such as: anxiety, panic, PTSD, OCD, and even psychosis.
Anxiety: Extreme worry or fear, most of the time with regards to the baby’s safety. Many women who experience PPA (Postpartum Anxiety) also experience panic attacks, or symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, and a loss of control.
Panic: Just like with anxiety, a mom might experience frequent panic attacks, and feels anxious and nervous much of the time.
PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder often comes on as a result of a traumatic childbirth experience, having flashbacks and unwanted thoughts and feelings that continue to come up around the trauma.
OCD: Women with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder often have repetitive thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and might repeat rituals (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety that is brought on by those thoughts. Most of the time the sufferer will not act upon scary or unwanted thoughts, as an individual with psychosis might.
Psychosis: Sufferers of psychosis should seek medical help ASAP. Psychosis is an emergency and needs professional medical attention. These women have hallucinations and might hear or see things others cannot, have periods of mania, seem confused or even forgetful. Sometimes women who suffer from psychosis are inclined to harm their babies, another reason to seek medical help immediately if you suspect you or someone you know is suffering from this.
So what causes PMADs?
These changes can be brought on by a physiological or biological change, or can also develop as a result of the environment or expectations a new mom has around her pregnancy and baby. With the drastic shift in hormones during and after pregnancy, many times PMADs is physiological, and can be safely and effectively treated.
What can you do if you’re experiencing PMADs, or have a mama friend who is? There’s a lot you can do to help!
Maintain Your Health
Mom first, then everyone else. It’s unnatural - I get it. As moms, we often, if not always, put everyone else before ourselves. But, if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, how can we take care of our babies? Maintain healthy eating habits to keep your energy up through the day, and most importantly, SLEEP. As many of you know, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture – and it is. Sleep is essential for our sanity as parents, and is also essential for our babies for proper growth and development.
It’s common and you are not alone. Too often we play the comparison game with other moms, friends, and even strangers on social media. We put pressure on ourselves that, as moms, we must feel a certain way – that motherhood is magical, and that every day should be filled with snuggles, laughter, and compliant little ones. Listen mamas, these little people are human too! Our babies are not robots, and despite your best efforts to make the day a great one or go according to schedule, there will always be things that don’t go smoothly or according to plan. And it’s OK. Try to be flexible and take each day in stride.
Ask for it, hire it, or reach out for it through the Postpartum Health Alliance Warmline: 619-254-0023.
There are so many of us who see you. We hear you. We have been there, and we want to support you in any way that we can. You got this, mama.
Natalie Fitzgerald is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula. Natalie’s approach to sleep training is tailored to each family she works with, meeting them exactly where they are and developing a customized plan to help them reach their sleep goals, based on their unique baby’s needs and their parenting style. Natalie walks alongside families during the time they need the most support, encouraging parents and helping them find a rhythm that works best with their baby and lifestyle. Natalie is also a member of the Postpartum Health Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. She lives in San Diego with her family, including her three little ones: Connor (6.5yrs), Kate (3.5yrs), and Makenna (1yr). You can follow Natalie or reach out to her with questions on Instagram and Facebook.