During pregnancy and after the birth of a child, there is an expectation in our culture that mothers should feel happy and excited, but sometimes this is not the case. Many women meet the criteria for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) during this time, which can include the following symptoms:
- Sadness/ depression
- Trouble bonding with the baby
- Increased irritability and anger
- Problems with eating or sleeping
- Feelings of anxiety and panic
- Experiencing upsetting thoughts that one seemingly can’t get out of the mind
- Feeling out of control or like you are going crazy
There are a range of emotional disorders that PMADs covers and it is important to work with a clinician that can detect the differences. These include post-partum OCD, generalized anxiety, depression, panic disorder and PTSD, and the symptoms can range in severity from bothersome to debilitating.
This pain and suffering is quite common, with some studies suggesting 15-20 % of women experience the above symptoms after childbirth. At Authentic Recovery, we know that one of the first steps in treatment is to recognize that these symptoms are part of a treatable illness- no one is to be blame, and the client is not alone in her experience. It is also very important to bust the myths and pressures that the culture places on pregnant and new mothers through diaper ads, unsolicited advice from strangers, or even their own mothers- that one should feel fulfilled, grateful, and euphoric in new motherhood. In addition to normalizing and reassuring a client about her difficult feelings, it is also important to educate her about her particular diagnosis.
Evidence based-practices, including CBT and EMDR, are then used to treat each woman’s particular form of the disorder, while some behavioral modifications are also suggested which include adding exercise into her routine, building a social support network of other moms and caregivers, and creatively finding solutions to maintaining a healthy amount of sleep each day.
In the end, seeking therapy for PMADs will allow the client to learn she is not alone, create healthy sleep and exercise routines, and connect with others to help her feel less distressed. All of these strategies are the building blocks of self-care, which is a skill and a mentality that will serve not only the mother, but the whole family, long after treatment is complete.
If you need additional resources, visit Postpartum Support International (www.postpartum.net)