Learning About Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder including Postpartum Depression

What are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) is a general term used to describe a wide range of emotional disorders a woman can experience during pregnancy and after the birth of her child. 

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders include:

+ Antepartum/prenatal/pregnancy Depression–Anxiety
+ Postpartum Depression (PPD)
+ Anxiety and Panic Disorders
+ Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD)
+ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
+ BiPolar Disorder (Postpartum Mania)
+ Postpartum Psychosis

Prenatal Depression (also known as Pregnancy Depression and Depression During Pregnancy)

Recent research has shown that at least 10% of pregnant women will experience depression/anxiety. Symptoms may include crying, sleep problems, appetite changes, loss in enjoyment of activities, obsessive thoughts and worries. Women with these symptoms are at risk for postpartum depression. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider to get treatment during pregnancy and put together a postpartum plan.

Depression During Pregnancy: Treatment Recommendations — A Joint Report from APA (American Psychiatric Association) and ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynocology) released in August 2009.  Please click on the link below to reach the report (pdf).

Depression during pregnancy – treatment and recommendations

To help you in your planning use the Postpartum Pact from “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression” used with permission from Karen Kleiman, MSW.*  Please click on the link below to reach the Postpartum Pact (pdf).

Postpartum Pact

* Please also note that this tool is for an individual client/patient’s use only. If copies are to be made and distributed for educational or professional purposes, the license agreement on our website limits the use of website materials to personal use only. For more information on the professional use of this and other materials, visit postpartumstress.com.

The Baby Blues

Approximately 60-80% of women experience the baby blues. This term refers to a period of temporary moodiness which usually begins 1-3 days after delivery. Symptoms may include sadness, irritability, frustration, and fatigue. These symptoms come and go but usually disappear within a couple of days (or a maximum of two weeks). Although the new mom feels quite miserable, the baby blues are not considered to be true postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression

It is estimated that 10-20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression; however, we suspect that this number is greater since many cases go unreported. Symptoms of postpartum depression are similar but more persistent (lasting throughout the day and longer than two weeks) than those of the baby blues. They usually develop a few weeks after delivery but can occur at any time during the first year after childbirth. Symptoms may include frequent crying, sleep disturbances, feelings of anger/irritability, suicidal thoughts, and sometimes anxiety or panic attacks. The new mom may feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and unable to cope. Although exhausted, she is usually unable to sleep. She may worry obsessively about the baby’s health, while feeling guilty about not bonding emotionally to her child. Many women are ashamed of their feelings and often do not seek help. Early recognition and proper treatment are important.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a severe but extremely rare (1 or 2 women in 1,000) disorder that can develop in the postpartum period. This illness is characterized by a loss of contact with reality for extended periods of time. Symptoms usually occur during the first few weeks after delivery and include hallucinations, delusions, rapid mood swings, and suicidal/infanticidal thoughts or actions. Postpartum psychosis is a very serious emergency and requires immediate help. If you or someone you know may be experiencing postpartum psychosis, call your doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

What Causes a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder?

Researchers are still unsure of what exactly causes postpartum depression. It is most likely caused by a number of factors that vary from individual to individual. Some factors believed to contribute to postpartum depression are:

+  the dramatic change in hormone levels occurring during pregnancy and
+  postpartum (some women are more sensitive to this change than others)
+  sleep deprivation
+  psychological stresses of new motherhood
+  previous postpartum or clinical depression
+  a family history of depression

How is a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder Treated?

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, including postpartum depression, are treatable. If you believe you are suffering from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, including postpartum depression, first contact your physician for a complete medical evaluation including a thyroid screening. Many medical conditions (such as a thyroid imbalance) can mimic postpartum depression and should be ruled out before beginning treatment.

The ideal treatment plan may include:

+  a complete medical examination
+  psychiatric evaluation
+  psychotherapy
+  participation in a support group

Don’t forget to also take time for yourself each day. Eat well, exercise, and get as much rest as possible. Take small steps at first – one day at a time.  Most of all, please remember that you will get well!

Learn more about the symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.


Postpartum Resource Center of New York
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders:
Finding the Help you Need.
Serving New York State families since 1998


In New York State please
email us or call
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For help outside of New York State and the United States,
please contact the Postpartum Support International.
The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical
or psychological condition. Please consult your doctor for individual advice
regarding your own situation.
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