Understanding Postpartum Anxiety and Depression
By Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW

Pregnancy and the postpartum period don’t always go as expected. It can be a joyful time, but it can also be overwhelming and scary. Many pregnant people have big, strong emotions and mood swings that are perfectly normal because women and birthing parents have high levels of hormones while pregnant and after giving birth. Sometimes these feelings develop into ongoing anxiety and/or depression that can be categorized as a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). Challenging feelings occur even after healthy pregnancies and for parents who very much want and love their babies. These symptoms are not a sign of weakness, they are an indication that you need support.

How will I know if I have a PMAD? 

PMADs are feelings of depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy that can last up to a year after birth. They can also occur when a pregnancy ends. PMADs can feel severe, mild, or somewhere in between. They are quite common and affect many parents and caregivers. PMADs impact each person differently. Early parenthood is often full of emotional ups and downs. Many people feel sad and cry a lot just after giving birth. You might feel anxious, cranky, and overwhelmed. Many minor signs and symptoms of PMADs are typical after having a baby and may include the inability to manage everyday tasks or care for yourself, intrusive thoughts and worries, sleeplessness, numbness, and feelings of disconnection. 

In rare cases, PMADs can be severe enough to put you or your baby in danger. If you ever feel you may hurt yourself or your baby, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room.

Getting support really helps

Postpartum depression and anxiety can be treated. There are many options for getting help. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will need medication. Treatment may include more support from family and friends, a focus on health and wellness, mindfulness practices, support groups, counseling/therapy, and/or medication. Seeking support may allow you to manage overwhelming feelings and worries. It can help you regain some energy and start to feel like yourself. Try some self-care strategies like speaking with a trusted friend about your feelings, moving your body, taking a shower, getting outside each day, or going for a walk. It can also help to prioritize rest, healthy eating, and taking breaks when you can. Feeling better is important for both you and your baby. If your symptoms are intense or have lasted for longer than two weeks, consult with a mental health or primary care provider
for options.



From ZERO TO THREE: Perinatal Depression: More than the Baby Blues:

From Postpartum Support International: Find online support through a
local directory:

Sarah MacLaughlin is a parent coach, social worker, and child development nerd. She is author of two books for parents and caregivers: What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children and Raising Humans With Heart: Not a How-To Manual. She is also mom to a teenager who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice. Follow on
IG: @sarahmaclaughlin and learn more at sarahmaclaughlin.com.