Did you know… May is Mental Health Awareness month. So naturally we, as doulas and childbirth educators in the Pacific Northwest are thinking about PMADs.
What are PMADs?
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
That breaks down to any mental health challenges that someone experiences in the time surrounding pregnancy, birth and/or the postpartum time.
These can include:
→ Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
→ Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The baby blues are similar to PMADs in that the symptoms can mimic depression but the baby blues usually are quick to pass and not as intense of feelings. The baby blues occur within the first few weeks postpartum and typically resolve as the maternal hormones balance back out.
Some say as many as 1 in 5 women experiences PMADs although this number is unreliable as many cases are unreported.
"...symptoms can mimic depression but the baby blues usually are quick to pass and not as intense of feelings."
Let’s debunk some myths around PMADs…
Myth #1. "I’m fine. I just need more coffee."
We all know that sleep is kind of a joke from the time you get your positive pregnancy test to, well, when your kids leave the house at 18?! We get it though, those first months of parenthood are especially taxing. Unless you have a postpartum doula or other amazing human helping you through the night, you are most likely struggling to get any sleep these days. The impact of sleep deprivation compiles within our brain to amplify our emotions and contribute to PMADs. If you find yourself saying this, be aware!
Myth #2. "I’m the only one dealing with this."
Many people are hesitant to reach out for help because they feel as if others will think they’re crazy and no one will understand. These disorders are much more common than many think and are best treated with the help of a professional. Chances are that you know at least one other person who has struggled with a PMAD you just may not be aware of it.
Myth #3. "I (the birthing person) am the only one who can suffer from PMADs."
Counter to what many people believe, PMADs are diagnosed in partners as well. Anticipating the arrival of a baby and then having a baby that, dare I say doesn’t come with a manual nor is it self-sufficient is a major life change. PMADs are not dependent on the massive hormonal fluctuations that come with birth. So, partners are also at risk for PMADs.
Myth #4 "There’s no use in getting treatment. I can’t take medication while I’m pregnant or breastfeeding anyway."
This is just not true. You and your medical care provider can hash the details of this one out. I’m a doula and am not going to tell you what is or is not medically recommended for you. I can tell you that there are several alternative ways to treat PMADs that don’t include medication AND there are some medications available that are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Myth #5 "I’ll lose my baby if I tell them what I’m really going through."
This is scary to think about! The good news is that this is rarely the case. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders improve with treatment. If you are suffering from postpartum psychosis and you or those around you are in danger the professionals are going to do everything they can to ensure safety for everyone.
Some women experience fleeting yet terrifying thoughts of harming themselves or their baby when suffering from PMADs. When this happens, it typically scares the person experiencing it as it is not something they would ever do. The line is when those terrifying thoughts don't sound scary and instead, become obsessions or transform into plans or action. If you or a loved one are experiencing the latter, it is a medical emergency and requires immediate professional help. Call 9-1-1.
Myth #6 This will go away eventually.
Without treatment it is highly unlikely that much will improve. What may happen though is that you will look back to this season and only remember the impact your PMAD had on it rather than being able to enjoy it. Treatment will make it better. Just reach out.
PMADs are real. Real people experience them and if you find yourself experiencing symptoms of a PMAD, please reach out to a professional.
If you don’t know where to start, contact your OB/Gyn or midwife. They will have resources for you to find the help you need. If you are in Washington State, Perinatal Support Washington is a fantastic resource. They provide phone access to a volunteer who is either a trained mental health professional or someone who has personally experienced a PMAD and has fully recovered from it.
If you are looking for a doula in Bellingham, WA with experience working with clients experiencing PMADs, contact North Cascade Doulas today! We would love to talk with you and find out what you are looking for!
Author, Kristina McMurtrey, is a passionate doula who aims to see families supported regardless of their unique way of navigating pregnancy, birth and parenting.
North Cascade Doulas provides care for families looking for Labor Doulas, Placenta Encapsulation and Childbirth Education Classes. We support all parenting philosophies and birth plans.
We specialize in :
(natural) unmedicated birth / (surgical) cesarean birth / epidural birth / induction / planned induction / planned cesarean / VBAC / TOLAC / waterbirth / multiples / breastfeeding / bottle feeding / formula feeding / NICU / PPD / PPMD / bed rest / high risk / low risk / advanced maternal age / miscarriage / IVF / and more.
Areas we Serve:
We serve Whatcom and Skagit Counties and the neighborhoods of Alger / Anacortes / Bellingham / Big Lake / Birch Bay / Blaine / Bow / Burlington / Clear Lake / Custer / Everson / Ferndale / Glen Haven / La Conner / Laurel / Lynden / Mount Vernon / Sedro Woolley / Sudden Valley