Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders: (Part II of II)
There are many myths surrounding Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders,
As I mentioned in Part I, Postpartum depression is the most commonly known term for when a mother faces an illness surrounding the birth of her child, but there are many other disorders that can impact her too. The following is a list of common myths and why they aren’t entirely accurate.
Myth 1: Postpartum depression is when a mother becomes depressed after childbirth.
This is true, but overly simplistic. Depression can start during the pregnancy or any time before the child turns one year old.
Myth 2: Depression is the only illness mother’s can experience after childbirth.
Depression is one of the illnesses mothers can experience. Others include anxiety, OCD, bipolar, PTSD, and psychosis. For descriptions of these disorders, see Part 1 of this article.
Myth 3: Moms will be able to recognize their own perinatal symptoms.
Sometimes this is true, but this is not always the case. Pregnant and new moms may understandably have some difficulty knowing whether their fatigue, emotions, or new mother worries are normal or not. OCD and Psychosis can be hard for the mom to recognize herself if she is caught up in her anxious or possibly delusional thoughts. Not all moms are aware that their thoughts don’t make sense. Moms will often feel guilty for feeling the way they do and try to get themselves to snap out of it which can make it more difficult for them to seek help. Sometimes another person will need to spot these symptoms and encourage the mother to begin treatment.
Myth 4: Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are only experienced by the woman carrying and giving birth to the child.
Actually, new fathers and adoptive parents can experience mood and anxiety disorders too. They are also experiencing a large transition that can bring new fears, worries, and emotions. They can also experience PTSD after witnessing a scary birth experience.
Myth 5: Childbirth is normal, therefore it cannot be considered traumatic.
Childbirth is in fact common, but it can be traumatic for many reasons. Many mothers think about and plan for the birth of their child, but what actually happens in the moment can be largely out of the hands of the birth parents. Sometimes the mother or child is at risk. Sometimes a C-section will be needed when it wasn’t planned for. Sometimes other means will be needed to birth the child. The list goes on.
Myth 6: Mother’s should be happy they have a new child and focus on this to get rid of their depression.
It’s not always this simple. Depression and other perinatal illnesses can be very difficult to control and the help of a professional and sometimes medication is needed.
Myth 7: It’s just the “Baby Blues.”
This is possible, so it depends on the situation. The Baby blues last for up to a few weeks following the birth of a child and do involve mood swings. After a few weeks, symptoms should have improved on their own. If symptoms persist beyond this length of time or seem severe, it’s likely more than the baby blues.
Myth 8: If the doctor didn’t notice a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, I must be fine.
Some doctors are great at assessing for differing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but many only ask a few questions about depression or skip assessing for it altogether. If you suspect that you or a loved one has one of these disorders or is struggling during or after pregnancy, it is best to follow your gut and to see a mental health professional who specifically specializes in it.