There has been a definite rise in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders since Covid 19 struck our planet. The headlines and front pages don’t always give you the news about important matters. Mental health is still a taboo subject, and widely misunderstood.
Pregnant women, and those that are brand new mothers can experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, otherwise known as PMADs. This used to be called postpartum depression, before we knew that it could strike during pregnancy. Depression was only one of the mood disorders. Pregnant women and women in the postpartum period can also experience anxiety, obsessive compulsive thoughts, or, in rare cases, psychosis.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are the number one complication of childbirth.
New mothers and families can experience devastation. If left undiagnosed, a mood disorder can quickly escalate to a crisis situation. We know so much more today than we did even ten years ago. Yet, in many parts of the United States, there is a lack of qualified professionals to help women overcome this disorder. Infants can quickly become depressed, if their mother is depressed.
Coivd 19 has sparked a rise in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Many people are experiencing isolation, financial hardship, domestic abuse, and food insecurity. Women who give birth are no exception. They can experience any or all of these circumstances, and they may have had a traumatic birth. Support systems could be unavailable. Perhaps a risk factor like a history of mental illness in the family, along with loss of life as we knew it before Covid 19, is enough to impact the emotional health of a woman who just gave birth.
The Edinburgh Depression Scale is a tool that has been around a while. A new mother answers questions that can determine her emotional state. I recommend that every woman who has given birth does this quick and easy questionnaire, available online. I also think it’s important that any prenatal childbirth education includes the topic of PMADs, and that every care provider screens for risk factors.
Postpartum doulas are a great help in minimizing the isolation felt by new mothers, by being an emotional support, and an active listener.
They can offer assistance by way of breastfeeding support, or even just being an adult who can talk to an isolated mother. This can be done on video calls. The postpartum doula does not diagnose or treat mood disorders, but they can be part of a treatment plan. They can also recommend a qualified professional who understands perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
If you are reading this and you think you might be experiencing a mood disorder, check out Postpartum Support International for local resources and support. Reach out for help, because you are not alone.