Mood Disorders of Childbirth

The mood disorders of pregnancy and childbirth are called Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD’s).  Listed below are the three PMAD’s of childbirth.

  • Baby Blues
  • Postpartum Depression (PPD)
  • Postpartum Psychosis

» The Mood Disorders of Childbirth Defined:

Baby Blues

• Symptoms present during the first week post childbirth and can last for a few hours to a few days.   The baby blues are relatively common.

Symptoms include:

· crying,  confusion,  mood lability (mood swings),  anxiety and depressed mood

• Treatment is generally not needed.

Postpartum Anxiety and Depression (PPD)

• Symptoms typically present within the first month post childbirth and result in some impairment in a woman’s functioning. Symptoms can present up to 3 years post childbirth.

Symptoms include:

· profound sadness,  overwhelming anxiety (including OCD symptoms),  intrusive thoughts,  intense mood swings,  irritability,  isolation,  crying a lot,  sleep deprivation,  appetite changes,  a sense of inadequacy,  difficulty bonding with baby,  feelings of guilt and shame,  not feeling “like myself”,  PTSD symptoms,  thoughts of harming the baby and suicidal thoughts

A mother experiencing PPD may have any combination of these feelings. 

A traumatic labor and childbirth can increase PTSD symptoms.

Professional treatment is needed.

Postpartum Psychosis

• Postpartum psychosis is a rare and serious illness and occurs in approximately 1 to 2 of every 1,000 deliveries.

• Onset of symptoms is usually sudden, most often within the first 2 weeks post childbirth.

Symptoms include:

· strange beliefs (delusions),  seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations),  hyperactivity,  decreased need for sleep,  extreme irritability,  rapid mood swings,  paranoia and suspiciousness,  difficulty communicating

· a significant risk factor is a personal or family history of bipolar disorder or a previous psychotic episode

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, delusions, hallucinations, or have thoughts of harming your baby, get help immediately by going to your local Emergency Room. Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental health condition.

» Risk Factors
The causes of mood disorders of childbirth are complex. Natural hormonal shifts that occur during pregnancy and the postpartum period cause biological changes in the brain and can trigger changes in mood, thoughts, and behaviors. A family or personal history of mental health issues including Bipolar Depression, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) or PMS can increase the risk for developing PPD. Other risk factors include: traumatic birth, marital stress, financial concerns, unresolved loss or grief, lack of emotional or physical support in taking care of your baby, a recent life event (move, new job/job loss, death of a loved one), mother of multiples, mothers whose babies are in the NICU, mothers of preemies, women with thyroid issues or Type 1 & 2 diabetes. It is important to note, however, that any woman can develop a PMAD.

» The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that major and minor depressive episodes that occur during pregnancy or in the first 12 months and up to 3 years post-childbirth is one of the most common medical complications of pregnancy and the postpartum periodPostpartum depression affects women globally; PPD transcends culture, income level, education, age, and race.

» The American Psychological Association reports that as many as 1 in 7 mothers will experience depression as a complication of pregnancy and/or childbirth.


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