What if you’re a new mom and instead of feeling exhilarated, you find yourself feeling very anxious, sad, irritable or lonely? What if you feel guilty for being a “bad mom,” as you find yourself not living up to what seems like everyone else’s “baby bliss?”

Many new parents are surprised to learn that at least 1 in 7 women experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD), which we now know may encompass more than “post-partum depression.” In fact, excessive anxiety is just as debilitating as depression and these symptoms can begin as early as the first trimester of pregnancy or up to 1 year after giving birth.

It is important to differentiate “baby blues” from perinatal mood disorders. “Baby blues” affects 60-80% of women, usually beginning around day 3 — 5 with frequent crying, irritability, anxiety and worrying, but symptoms disappear by 3 weeks.

Symptoms of PMAD can include one or more of the following, lasting longer than 3 weeks:

  • Loss of interest or joy in life
  • Sadness and crying
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Excessive worry about baby’s or her own health
  • Excessive concern about cleanliness and germs
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Feeling overwhelmed, afraid to be alone
  • Lack of appetite, energy or motivation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Obsessive-Compulsive behaviors
  • Lack of feelings toward baby
  • Feeling like a “bad mom”
  • Feelings of guilt/shame
  • Having thoughts of hurting herself or her baby
  • Thoughts of suicide

A personal or family history of anxiety, depression, difficult or traumatic pregnancy or birth, breastfeeding difficulties, marital difficulties, or lack of support put a mom at higher risk of PMAD.

What to do if you have any of the above symptoms? Don’t suffer alone! Talk to someone about it—family, friend, OB, therapist, lactation consultant, or doula. If you’re not attending a mom and baby group now, consider joining one of our online Baby & Me! groups or a parenting workshop to learn more about post-baby recovery as well as all things baby.

If you have any questions about our Baby & Me! groups or would like more information about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder—regardless of where you are, contact Cherie Tannenbaum, NP, IBCLC, Coordinator of our Babies & Beyond program at [email protected] or 415-828-1700.

Cherie Tannenbaum, NP, IBCLC is a family nurse practitioner, certified lactation consultant and family educator. She has over 30 years experience helping new families care for their babies and adjust to their new lives. She is the mother of four adult daughters.