What Should I know about PMADs? Tips for New and Expecting Parents from Mental Health Professionals

Through the magic of social media and the internet, I have been able to connect with many professionals around the country (and world) who specialize in in maternal mental health.

I asked some of my colleagues to share their thoughts on the following question:

As a mental health professional, what information do you think new or expecting parents should know about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders? 

I noticed 5 themes in the answers my colleagues shared.

1.   The transition to parenthood can be rough, but it is important to be aware of the difference between what is “normal” adjustment and when we are becoming overwhelmed and may need some extra support.

New Mexico therapist, Stefanie Juliano says, “As an expecting mom, it is natural to feel some anxiety. However, for some the anxiety can become all consuming. It can oftentimes worsen if that mom has experienced a previous miscarriage, stillbirth, or other infant loss.” Minnesota therapist, Elisabeth Gliddon reminds parents to trust themselves and says, “Know that you know yourself the best. If you are feeling very down or anxious there is help for you. You may hear from doctors or other moms that what you are going through is normal. If it doesn’t feel that way or if it hasn’t gone away after a few weeks postpartum, they are wrong. Trust your gut.”

2.   Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are more common than you may realize.

Minnesota social worker, Angie Rackstraw reminds us “It is more common than you think! Research says that 80% of new mothers experience normal “baby blues” in the first few weeks after the baby arrives. At least 1 in 7 mothers (15%) experience serious depression or anxiety during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth.” 

3.   It is helpful to educate yourself about PMADs and prepare for the postpartum period.

Texas therapist, Erika Labuzan-Lopez has noticed that couples may be more prepared for pregnancy and birth than the postparum period.  Labuzan-Lopez explains, “One thing I have found is that most expecting parents really have not prepared for the postpartum period.  Couples typically focus on pregnancy and birth classes, or decorating the nursery and buying supplies before baby comes.  These are important things to do, but it is essential that people have an understanding of what it will be like when they are at home with the baby.  Perinatal disorders are common, and I think education about what they look like and recognizing the symptoms is critical for expecting parents.”

Read more about PMADs in these posts:

4.  There is support available for those who are experiencing a PMAD.  

There are a variety of professionals trained to support families affected by PMADs, but unfortunately families may not always reach out for support. This may be due to the fact that families don’t recognize that what they are experiencing is more than just the “baby blues.”   Additionally, some families do not reach out for support because of shame or guilt about the symptoms.

Rackstraw says, “If you experience signs and symptoms of a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, it is not your fault, you have done nothing wrong and you should not doubt your motherhood ability or experience. It means that you are normal and you are not alone. All symptoms are treatable and with help you will be well.” Juliano adds “There should be absolutely no shame or hesitation in seeking professional help to deal these uncomfortable feelings”

When looking for support Gliddon suggests “Find someone who understands. You can always call Postpartum Support International (PSI) at 1-800-944-4773 and they can direct you to help in your area.”

Resources for finding support include:

5.   Self Care is important!

Many of you know that self care is one of my passions and something I believe is important regardless of whether you are a parent or not!   The professionals that contributed to this post emphasized starting to make self care a priority during pregnancy, if you aren’t already doing so.  

Juliano suggests meditation or deep breathing, coloring, walking, or talking or writing to the baby.  Labuzan-Lopez encourages expecting parents learn some self-compassion and mindfulness techniques.  Gliddon says, “Take care of yourself and do whatever you can to get some sleep.”

Want to read more about self care? Check out this recent post on 10 Self Care Tips for New and Expecting Parents.

Thank you to all of the mental health professionals who contributed tips for this post.

If you have another tip that you think may benefit new and expecting parents, please feel free to leave it in the comments.

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