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Women's Health

  • Maternal Mental Health

What are Perinatal Mood Disorders?

Perinatal Mood Disorders are a set of disorders that can occur anytime during pregnancy up to the first year after delivery. Pregnancy and caring for a new baby can be one of the most joyful and exciting times in a woman's life, but it's also hard work. It is natural for a women to experience changes in her feelings and mood during pregnancy and after giving birth. However, if unpleasant feelings do not go away after a couple of weeks - or if they get worse - they could be signs of a Perinatal Mood Disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors for Perinatal Mood Disorders

Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop a Perinatal Mood Disorder, which could result from a combination of biologic, hormonal, environmental and psychological factors.  There is no single cause or reason a woman develops a Perinatal Mood Disorder, but contributing factors may include:

    • Have been previously diagnosed with postpartum depression
    • Colicky, difficult or demanding newborn
    • Experienced depression or anxiety during previous pregnancy
    • Have a personal or family history of mood disorders or mental illness
    • Have a history of severe PMS
    • Are a woman of color
    • Are a military family
    • Have a poor support system
    • Have a history of abuse

    Symptoms can appear anytime during the two-year span from conception through the baby's first birthday. 

    Types of Perinatal Mood Disorders

    • Depression during Pregnancy and Postpartum - A woman with PPD might experience feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or herself. Learn more about PPD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

    • Anxiety during Pregnancy and Postpartum (PPA) - A woman with PPA may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Some women have panic attacks and might feel shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling. Learn more about PPA, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

    • Pregnancy or Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - Women with PPOCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These moms find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them. Learn more about PPOCD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

    • Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - PPTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth or past trauma, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event. Learn more about PPTSD, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

    • Bipolar Mood Disorder - There are two phases of a bipolar mood disorder: the lows and the highs. The low time is clinically called depression, and the high is called mania or hypomania. Many women are diagnosed for the first time with bipolar depression or mania during pregnancy or postpartum. Bipolar mood disorder can appear as a severe depression; women need informed evaluation and follow-up on past and current mood changes and cycles to assess whether there is a bipolar dynamic. In Bipolar 2, the manic episode is less apparent; the highs and lows are not as extreme, and sometimes it is more apparent to friends and families than to the individual going through the phases. Learn more about bipolar mood disorders during pregnancy or postpartum.

    • Postpartum Psychosis - PPP sufferers sometimes see and hear voices or images that others can’t, called hallucinations. They may believe things that aren’t true and distrust those around them. They may also have periods of confusion and memory loss, and seem manic. This severe condition is dangerous so it is important to seek help immediately. Learn more about PPP, including risk factors, symptoms and treatment options.

    Maternal Mental Health Help

    Rely on Wayne UNC for care and treatment if you or someone you know is experiencing emotional difficulties during or after pregnancy. You may have signs of Perinatal Mood Disorders, including postpartum depression after childbirth.

    Behavioral Health Counseling

    Talk to a compassionate behavioral health provider at Wayne UNC to seek help for postpartum depression.

    You Are Not Alone

    With help, you will get better. You are not alone and you are not to blame.

    Call or Text Postpartum Support International:

    • Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)
      English and Spanish
    • Text 503-894-9453

    Available 24 hours a day, you will be asked to leave a confidential message and a trained and caring volunteer will return your call or text. They will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement and connect you with local resources as needed.

    Raise Awareness - Request a Blue Dot Magnet

    Join Wayne UNC Health Care and show your support for Maternal Mental Health awareness! Complete the Maternal Mental Health Form and receive a blue dot magnet at the address provided.

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