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Expectant and New Moms: Watch for These Signs

May 25, 2021

Pregnancy and new motherhood can be joyful and unforgettable, but these precious moments also bring a whole host of new challenges that can seem overwhelming. Between getting to know a new human being, midnight feedings, body image issues and a complete overhaul of your schedule, you may experience feelings of exhaustion and frustration. 

Incorporating a new baby into your life is a serious undertaking, and feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and frustration are normal. However, there comes a point when these feelings can also be signs of either postpartum depression (PPD) or perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). When feelings of sadness or anxiety start disrupting the quality of your life, it’s time to ask your doctor for help. 

How PPD and PMAD Connect

The most well-known of several conditions spurred by hormone changes during pregnancy and childbirth, PPD occurs postpartum — the period of time just after birth. PPD affects between 8 percent and 10 percent of new mothers. 

PPD is just one of the conditions that falls under the umbrella of PMAD, or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which affect between 11 percent and 22 percent of mothers. PMAD encompasses a wider range of disorders, including not only depression and anxiety, but also obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder throughout pregnancy and after childbirth. 

Am I at Risk for PMAD? 

Some of the most common risk factors for PMAD or PPD include: 

  • Family history: As with many other illnesses, if depression, anxiety or obsessive behavior tends to run the family, you may be more likely to suffer from it.

  • Lack of support system: As they say, “it takes a village,” and without your village to support you, you may feel isolated and alone.

  • Preterm delivery: Women who delivered preterm babies were more likely to develop symptoms of PMAD, according to a 2019 study from the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing. This could be attributed to hormones and to anxiety about the birth not going to plan.

What To Look for and When To See a Doctor 

If you’re a new mother, PPD and PMAD can be difficult to spot in yourself. What’s more, you may experience signs of fatigue or frustration that you may not want to admit, fearing judgment from others. 

If you’re a loved one of an expectant or new mom, here are some symptoms to look for: 

  • Subtle personality changes

  • Feeling down

  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Not eating or eating too much 

It’s best not to jump to conclusions, but it may be time to steer your loved one toward a doctor who can start asking the right questions. On the other hand, if someone has a family history of mental or emotional challenges, establishing a trusting relationship with a therapist early on in pregnancy is recommended. 

If your loved one is diagnosed with PPD or PMAD, a loving, supportive and nonjudgmental attitude is important. In addition, the new mom needs time to rest and recover, and you or other loved ones can offer crucial aid, either by helping with household chores or childcare, or simply as a listening ear.


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