Perinatal Mood Disorders

Perinatal Mood Disorders

Perinatal Mood Disorders are mood disorders that occur anytime between conception and the first year postpartum.  About 1 in 5 women will experience a           perinatal mood disorder.  These mood disorders include:  depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis.  Understanding your symptoms can help you receive the professional care and assistance quickly and allow you to enjoy the early period of motherhood.  While there are many factors that may impact perinatal mood disorders, and researchers acknowledge that we have a lot of research to go before we understand these mood disorders more fully, we do know that pre-existing mood disorders, family history of mood disorders, a difficult birth experience, relationship challenges, hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and role adjustment can all impact a woman's adjustment and          emotional status during the perinatal period.  Some women experience their first onset of a mood disorder during the perinatal period.  Finding a professional who is familiar with perinatal mood disorders is an important decision.  Women who are breastfeeding have many choices in the treatment of perinatal mood disorders and their treatment course may or may not include the use of medication.  It is important to discuss options and concerns with a professional knowledgeable in perinatal mood disorders. 

Perinatal Depression

Perinatal depression is a common disorder.  While postpartum depression has garnered significant attention and several high-profile women have shared their experience with postpartum depression, depression before delivery is not discussed.  Perinatal depression has significant effects on the mother and baby.  Some of the potential effects of perinatal depression include:  pre-term delivery, low birth weight, cognitive delays, and interrupted bonding between the mother and baby as well as impacting relationships with other children and the woman's partner.  Symptoms of perinatal depression include:  feelings of sadness, feelings of anger or irritability, lack of interest in the baby, significant change in appetite (increase or decrease), poor sleep, feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness, losing interest in activities you enjoyed before, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. 

Postpartum Depression

While not discussed as often as postpartum depression, perinatal anxiety disorders are thought to be equally common.  Anxiety disorders include: generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic disorder.  Anxiety disorders often coincide with depressive symptoms.  Symptoms include;  excessive worry, thoughts about harm coming to the baby, restless sleep, panic attacks, and repeated thoughts. Women experiencing perinatal anxiety may experience increased or decreased appetite, and physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness or hot flashes.

Risk factors include: a previous history of anxiety disorders, a family history of anxiety disorders, and a thyroid imbalance.

Perinatal anxiety is temporary and treatable.  If you are experiencing perinatal anxiety disorders, know that you are not to blame and that effective treatment is available. 

Postpartum Psychosis

This is a very serious mental health condition that requires immediate medical evaluation and care.  Postpartum Psychosis affects 1-2 women out of every 1,000 deliveries.  The onset is sudden and usually occurs during the first four weeks postpartum.  Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis include:  hallucinations, delusions, irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need or inability to sleep, paranoia and suspiciousness, rapid mood swings, and difficulty communicating at times. 

Risk factors for this disorder are family or personal history of bipolar disorder.

This disorder is associated with a 5% infanticide and suicide rate.  In this disorder,  a woman loses touch with reality.  In this state, the woman feels the delusions or hallucinations feel very real; they feel meaningful and often religious in nature.  Immediate treatment for women experiencing this disorder is imperative.

Many women who experience postpartum psychosis do not experience violent delusions and hallucinations.  Most women who experience postpartum psychosis do not harm themselves or others.  The danger is that women in this state are experiencing delusions and irrational thinking. It is very important that women receive care and oversight from a trained medical professional. 

Postpartum Psychosis is treatable.  Immediate care is necessary when women are experiencing the symptoms listed above.  Please call your doctor or a crisis hotline if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of postpartum psychosis. 


About 1-6% of women will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth.  Usually, this is caused by a real or perceived danger during delivery or postpartum.  These traumas could include:  prolapsed cord, unexpected cesarean section, instrumental delivery assistance (forceps or vacuum), baby needing NICU care, feeling powerless during the labor and delivery, lack of support during labor and delivery, poor communication with the medical team, a previous trauma including sexual abuse could increase the risk of experiencing PTSD after childbirth.

Symptoms of PTSD might include:  intrusive or recurring thoughts about the traumatic incident, flashbacks or nightmares, avoiding of people, places, thoughts and feelings related to the event, irritability, difficulty sleeping, exaggerated startle response, anxiety and panic attacks, feeling a sense of unreality and detachment.

Effective, evidence-based treatment is available for PTSD.  If you have experienced a trauma prior to birth, it is important to consider counseling prior to your birth to help you have the best possible birth experience. 

If you or someone you know is suffering symptoms listed above you need to get or suggest help.  The counselors at Buchheit Counseling can help you with counseling service or point you in the right direction.  You can reach Jamie Bodily by phone: 636-699-2734.  Jamie will try to refer to the right resources if she cannot help you directly.