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Understanding Mental Health During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Understanding Mental Health During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Pregnancy and parenthood can be filled with joys and successes that a family can cherish forever. This doesn’t mean that there are no challenges that come with giving birth. There are still challenges that may arise. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are one of those challenges. A very common example of a PMAD is post-partum depression (PPD). In this blog, we will talk about PMADs, what they are, and how parents can deal with them.


What are PMADs?

PMADs are the name given to many mental health challenges that can arise during or after pregnancy. One in five people who give birth may experience PMADs. PMADs does not discriminate by gender, race, income, or education. Symptoms of PMADs are similar to other depression and anxiety disorders. PMADs can also seem similar to “baby blues.” The steps in dealing with PMADs is understanding how they are different from baby blues.


Baby Blues vs PMADs

Baby Blues

  • Can affect 1 out of 2 birth givers.
  • Symptoms can show up 1 to 3 days after birth.
  • Symptoms include mood swings, crying spells, sleep trouble, loneliness, and irritability.
  • Symptoms can last as long as 2 weeks.
  • Can turn into a PMAD if not treated.


  • Can affect 1 in 5 birth givers.
  • Symptoms can show up 2 weeks after birth.
  • Symptoms are similar to depression, anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and sometimes psychosis.
  • Symptoms can last as long as 2 years.
  • Can be dangerous if not treated.


Birthing and Treatment Plan

A helpful tip for dealing with PMADs is to prepare for them as soon as you can. This includes adding PMADs treatment to your birthing plan. You and your healthcare provider can talk about the treatment options that work best for you. For example, you can talk about therapy and medications, and how those can help. It is important to remember that some treatments like anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications may not be safe during pregnancy. Your healthcare provider can help you understand which options are safest. You can also talk about your family’s history with mental health challenges. This can give you and your provider an idea of what your treatment plan should look like. The March of Dimes has a helpful tool for learning how to write a birthing plan with your provider. Another support system includes birth doulas, a birth doula can also help you deal with PMADs. Birth doulas are professionals who are trained to help with your birth giving experience. They can provide support by talking with you about difficult thoughts and feelings, helping with chores around the house, and suggesting other services that may be helpful.


Community Support

While professionals can provide helpful services, it is also important to reach out to family and friends. This can include the family you were born into or your chosen family of friends and community members. The support you get from family and friends can make all the difference if there are thoughts and feelings you don’t feel comfortable sharing with a doula or healthcare provider. Community supports can help you deal with the loneliness you may experience not just with PMADs but also the challenges of birth giving and parenthood overall.


Where Can I Start?

Speaking of community support, the P&I team is here to help you at every step of your birth giving journey. We have several resources for handling the challenges of pregnancy, birth-giving, and parenthood. P&I offers online classes where you can learn more about PMADs, pregnancy, and services that can support you. We can also help connect you to a low-cost doula. We have support groups with other birth givers where you can share your experiences in a safe space. We can also point you to other groups that talk about PMADs. Some of these groups can teach friends and family skills they can use to support you through pregnancy and parenthood.

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