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  • Writer's pictureKeri Pinelli

From Silence to Strength: Empowering Tips for Postpartum Depression

When I gave birth to my first daughter, I had these visions of what “motherhood” would be like. It was going to be wonderful; I was going to be a great mom, I knew what to expect because I had nieces and nephews, I had family and friends who went through it and shared their experiences with me. I was confident and excited. Now, 2 kids and 9 years later, I realize how naive and uneducated I really was. The term Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders or PMADs was not one that I was familiar with, and it was also not one that my doctors talked to me about. I had heard of the “baby blues” and even postpartum depression, but it was not something that I even considered would be an issue for me.

I, like so many first-time mothers, was not prepared for the emotional rollercoaster I was about to take a ride on.  So many women are not educated by their doctors about these topics and therefore, are unprepared when they do experience them. According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women experience perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and 50% of them are left untreated. So, what exactly does this all mean and how do we get help?  

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) are a group of mental health conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. PMADs include a range of mood and anxiety disorders that can significantly impact a woman's emotional well-being during pregnancy and after childbirth. Here are some types of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders:

  1. Postpartum Depression (PPD): PPD is one of the most well-known perinatal mood disorders. It involves persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities after giving birth.

  2. Perinatal Anxiety: Perinatal anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. Symptoms may include excessive worrying, restlessness, irritability, and physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat and sweating.

  3. Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Postpartum OCD is characterized by intrusive, distressing thoughts or images (obsessions) related to the baby's safety, followed by compulsive behaviors or rituals aimed at reducing anxiety.

  4. Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Some women develop postpartum PTSD following a traumatic childbirth experience. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety related to the traumatic event.

  5. Perinatal Bipolar Disorder: Women with bipolar disorder may experience mood swings, including depressive and manic episodes, during pregnancy or the postpartum period.

The good news is that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are treatable. Treatment options may include individual therapy, medication management and support groups.  Early identification is key and intervention is critical for improving outcomes. Although healthcare providers often screen for PMADs during the postnatal check-up, many women feel ashamed or uneasy about being open and honest about what they are feeling, thus leading to so many new moms left undiagnosed and untreated. It is so important for women share their feelings and symptoms in order to receive the appropriate care.

If opening-up to your doctors is too difficult, talk to someone you trust. Share your feelings with your partner, family members, friends, or fellow moms. Having a strong support system can make a significant difference in your emotional well-being. 

The following is a list of some other things that can be helpful to get yourself through these difficult times…

  1. Take care of your physical health: Prioritize self-care as much as you can. I know all too well that this may seem impossible, especially in those early weeks and months postpartum, but eating nutritious meals, getting enough rest and regular exercise will do wonders for your mood.

  2. Set realistic expectations: Understand that while recovering from childbirth, your body is undergoing a tremendous hormonal upheaval which, as I mentioned earlier, is a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Be patient with yourself. Set small daily goals and celebrate even the smallest victories along the way. 

  3. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself: It is ok, and often necessary to ask for help, especially in the beginning. Do not try and do everything on your own and don’t strive for perfection because it simply doesn’t exist. Instead, reach out to your support system and take breaks when needed. 

  4. Practice mindfulness: Incorporating stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine can make a big difference, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. Similarly, keeping a journal can be very therapeutic. Having a space to write down your thoughts and feelings is helpful, and it allows you to track progress and identify patterns in your emotions.  

Remember that PMADs are treatable, and with the right support and treatment, you can recover and enjoy your new role as a mother. It's important to prioritize your mental health for the well-being of both you and your baby.

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