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Perinatal Mental Health

There are many different types of perinatal mental health experiences including peri- and post-partum mental health disorders.  Perinatal mental health can show up for both the birthing parent and their partner. It is important to note that up to 18% of partners experience perinatal mental health struggles.  These disorders are different than the 'classic' baby blues and are serious mental health disorders.

Baby Blues

The baby blues are caused by a natural hormone change within the first two weeks of post-partum.  This can include symptoms like tearfulness, reactivity, and exhaustion but feelings of happiness are consistent and one's self-esteem doesn't waver.  This normally sticks for 2-14 days.  The baby blues do not last past 2 weeks post-birth. 

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Perinatal/Postpartum Depression

Perinatal depression is a clinical diagnoses represented by multiple different symptoms.  This could look like significant weight changes, overall depressed mood, loss of interest or joy, insomnia, body pain, worthlessness, isolation, excessive guilt, inability to take care of oneself, lack of connection with baby, and feeling like one cannot cope with every day duties.  

PPD does not always come with feelings of wanting to hurt oneself or baby, but can present as a wide range of symptomology.  PPD can be debilitating and you do not have to live with these feelings and experiences.  This can be managed by medication, therapy, or both.  

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Perinatal Anxiety Disorder

Perinatal anxiety disorder is the less talked about disorder, but effects up to 20% of individuals in their peri- and post-partum period.  Symptoms can include, excessive worry about one's or baby's health, rumination, irritability and rage, consistently feeling on edge, blank mind, insomnia sleep behaviors, increased bodily behaviors such as heart racing and muscle tension.  

PAD can be extremely impactful in bonding with baby, as well as the daily functioning of the parent(s).   PAD can manifest into a perinatal panic disorder which includes fear of dying, going crazy, or losing control. PAD and panic disorders can also be managed with medication, therapy or both.

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Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Perinatal OCD is one of the least spoken about mental health disorders related to pregnancy and postpartum disorders.  It is characterized by intrusive thoughts about harm coming to one's baby, spiraling 'what if' thinking, extreme levels of guilt and shame, hypervigilance, being terrified of one's intrusive thoughts, and most importantly engaging in behaviors to avoid harm or lessen the amount of triggers.  This could look like never taking the baby in the car, being terrified of others carrying the baby incase they drop them, etc.  Perinatal OCD is isolating and paralyzing and is something abnormal - you do not need to be living with these intrusive thoughts and behaviors. 

It is important to note that sometimes parents may experience intrusive thoughts around harming their baby, but do not want this and is frightening to the parent as well as parents taking the steps to protect their baby.

Perinatal OCD can be successfully managed by therapy and/or medication.

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Perinatal Bipolar Disorder

Perinatal bipolar disorder is characterized by multiple different symptomology either during or after pregnancy.  This includes intense changes in mood including mania and depressive states.  Mania looks like euphoria, decrease in need for sleep, racing thoughts, unusual productivity and energy, and these changes are heavily noticed by others.  Manias can sometimes include hallucinations or paranoia in which hospitalization is needed.  This mania is almost always met with a depressive state. 

It is important to state that the vast majority of individuals who have perinatal bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with unipolar depression.  It is important to obtain the correct diagnosis as success in therapy or medical treatment is pertinent to proper diagnosis. 

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Perinatal Psychosis

Perinatal psychosis is an intense mental health disorder experienced by a very low percentage of parents after the birth of the child.  In many instances, it mirrors perinatal OCD and/or Bipolar disorder, but there are significant detectors that differentiate it. Individuals with perinatal psychosis may not realize that their thoughts or actions are unhealthy, they exhibit lower levels of anxiety when engaging in their thoughts and actions, and are unaware of understanding their thought distortions.  In perinatal psychosis, the parent has delusional beliefs about the baby that are untrue, and their thoughts of harming their baby are tempting and the parent truly believes it is a reasonable thought.  

Perinatal psychosis is a very serious mental health condition which constitutes a more in depth and more complex treatment plan than solely classic therapy and medication.  It is necessary for individuals with perinatal psychosis to participate in inpatient treatment along with psychiatric care in relation to medication. 

Pink Blossom

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There is so much complexity in perinatal mental health disorders. If any of these disorders feel familiar, please reach out to set up a session.  If you are experiencing any symptoms of perinatal psychosis, please go to the emergency room to obtain appropriate assistance. 

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