From the time of conception to the year after the birth of your child can be simultaneously fulfilling and extremely stressful. Motherhood brings a tremendous strain on your physical and mental health. Pregnancy demands that you are responsible and careful while you are continually concerned about the well-being of your unborn child.
Then, delivery happens ad you find that you are confronted with sleep deprivation, changing family dynamics, fluctuating hormones, and your needy baby. Certainly, this time can be filled with moments of intense bonding and joy; however, for many women depression and anxiety symptoms can surface.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) can occur from the time of conception to 1 year after the birth of your child. One in seven moms experiences PMAD. If you have suffered from depression and/or anxiety before conception, you are at a higher risk for PMAD. Genetic and environmental influences, such as living in an urban area or a busy city, are additional risk factors for PMAD.
Symptoms of PMAD
The intensity, frequency, and duration of PMAD symptoms vary for each mom. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, PMAD may be impacting you:
- Frequent crying, sometimes seemingly for no reason
- Feeling restless, irritable, and frustrated with yourself, your child, your partner
- Loss of interest in being a mother
- Having thoughts that you will harm your baby
- Feeling guilty that you are not taking care of your baby as you should
- Feeling shame that you will be or are a bad mother
- Isolating from friends and/or family
- Chronic fatigue
- Lack of motivation to care for yourself or others
- Changes in your appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent headaches
- Heart palpitations and/or hyperventilation
- Frequent and persistent thoughts about dying
- Seeing or hearing voices that others do not witness, referred to as hallucinations
Effects of Untreated PMAD
Untreated PMAD can lead to dire effects, including maternal suicide which is a leading cause of death during the perinatal period. Moms struggling with mental health issues are at higher risk for fetal growth problems, preterm delivery, insecure attachment with their newborn, and troubles parenting. Parental mental health disorders can interfere with newborn development and are at higher risk for SIDS, health conditions, and development and behavioral disorders.
Ways to Cope with PMAD
- Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion refers to being kind and loving towards yourself, using mindfulness, and feeling a connection with others. Connect with all your innate worthiness as a human being. Notice that you are suffering and that’s okay. Practicing self-compassion soothes the autonomic nervous system and generates empathy, connectedness, and calmness. You can see PMAD as a need to seek help and reach out rather than a source of shame. Motherhood can be a time to learn, grow, and heal.
- Get sufficient and deep sleep. Although this may seem an impossible task, sleep is essential for your to recover and restore your physical and mental health. Ask your support system, such as your husband, to watch your newborn so that you can rest. You may need to take naps during the day when someone else can care for your baby. If you have the financial means, you may consider hiring a night nanny. Night nannies take care of your baby throughout the night so that you can get sleep.
- Feed your body healthy foods. A significant amount of research supports the connection between eating nutritiously and a reduction of anxiety and depression. Although fixing a nutritious meal may take some time out of your day, feeding your body nutritious foods will generate stamina and can improve your mood. Eating clean proteins, whole grains, and a large portion of diverse fruits and vegetables led to optimal cellular functioning in the gut, brain, and rest of the body. Refrain from fried, overly salty, sugary, and simple carbohydrates that may trigger inflammation and cause unhealthy fluctuations in your blood glucose levels and impair your gut microbiome.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the practice of noticing your present awareness with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment. Self-awareness allows you to be aware of your thoughts and emotions without getting “hooked” on them. You simply notice your internal experience so that you can acknowledge and accept where you’re at. With mindfulness, you are released from automatically reacting to your emotions and generate a sense of being grounded. To start, try daily meditation to develop mindfulness skills and then work up to using mindfulness throughout the day in all your activities.
- Exercise and move. Physical activity can lead to heightened mood and may reduce the intensity of PMAD symptoms. Taking a group class may offer you alone time that you need and a sense of connection with others. Alternatively, you could try walking or jogging with your baby as another way to increase physical activity. The added benefit of going outside and feeling the sun may help to improve your mood. If you are pregnant, you should contact your healthcare provider before starting any exercise routine.
- Bond with your baby. When you suffer from PMAD, you may feel disconnected from your baby. Fostering your relationship with your baby will help you to overcome these feelings. Soothing, providing reassurance, and holding your baby are just some ways to develop this bond. Playing, maintaining skin-to-skin contact, reading, singing, and talking are specific ways to create a secure attachment and empower you as a mother. When you are pregnant, you can bond with your unborn child by talking and singing, and visualizing the relationship that you will foster once he/she is born.
- Remove or limit stressors. When you are already struggling with depression and/or anxiety, any additional stressors can feel overwhelming. You may feel that you have limited capacity to take on any additional stress. You may need to say “no” and postpone certain responsibilities. Think about taking a break from time-consuming activities that are causing stress. Ask for help.
- Start therapy for PMAD. Only 40% of mothers are diagnosed with PMAD and only 60% seek treatment. Mothers should not face PMAD alone. For the health of the mother and child, engaging in psychological care is so important. Find a psychologist or counselor who specializes in PMAD treatment. In therapy, you will develop insight into what’s been bothering you, establish coping skills, learn new ways of parenting, and address any mental health issues, such as trauma.
- Ask your healthcare provider for resources and treatment. Psychiatric medication may be an option to manage your mood. Your psychiatric provider can provide you with information on the risks of medication and other treatment options.
- Share your struggles. If possible, ask your family and friends to help you through this difficult time. Share your feelings and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help with cleaning, food preparation, or babysitting while you nap. If you are financially able, you may want to pay a babysitter to help you out on a regular basis.
- When you are in a crisis, get immediate help. If you are having thoughts about dying or harming your child, immediately reach out for help. Ensure that your baby is located in a safe place and then seek assistance. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911, go to the Emergency Room, or contact your healthcare provider. Postpartum Support International offers many resources for mothers. You can join a support group or talk with someone on their hotline.
How We Can Help
If you are suffering from Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:
- Text today at (480) 448-6755 or e-mail us for a free consultation
- Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
- Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life as a parent
Dr. Mazzei offers both in-person and online PMAD counseling for moms residing in Arizona, Illinois, and Nevada. Her private practice is located at 3377 S. Price Rd.. Suite 2104, Chandler, AZ.