Learn about the signs, symptoms and causes of perinatal disorders.
Types of Perinatal Disorders
Most new mothers experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness and irritability, during the first few weeks after baby is born. Often referred to as the Baby Blues, this is a normal adjustment as pregnancy and postpartum hormones adjust. Symptoms usually last up to three weeks and resolve without medical intervention.
Perinatal or postpartum depression, is a common condition affecting mothers during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby. Sufferers can feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with their new role as a parent. This type of depression can have a severe impact on the mother-child relationship, rouse intense feelings of sadness and guilt.
A woman with anxiety may experience extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of the baby. Anxiety conditions involve excessive worry on most days, which significantly affects everyday life.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Women with OCD can have repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts. These mothers find these thoughts very scary and unusual and are very unlikely to ever act on them.
This is a form of anxiety in which the sufferer feels very nervous and has recurring panic attacks. During a panic attack, she may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, claustrophobia, dizziness, heart palpitations, and numbness and tingling in the extremities.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event.
Peripartum (Postpartum) Psychosis
This is a rare mental health condition that affects only one or two women in in every 1,000 births. Peripartum Psychosis is very serious. The mother may be at risk of self harm and there is risk of potential harm for her infant. Recognising symptoms and seeking urgent professional help is essential.
Causes of Perinatal Disorders
Previous mental illness
Self-criticism or perfectionism
Physical health problems
Loneliness and isolation
Loss of intimacy
Past history of abuse
Negative of stressful life events
Signs and Symptoms
Pregnancy and caring for babies is a stressful occupation. Many new mothers suffer from some form of anxiety or depression in the early months as they are often lonely and isolated, spending long periods at home alone with their baby. Some may feel powerless and dependent, or may have unrealistic expectations of motherhood.
Some common signs and symptoms of perinatal disorders include:
Feeling continually exhausted, depressed, anxious, angry or unable to cope with your baby and daily activities
Always tired yet unable to sleep
Difficulty making simple decisions
Feeling guilty or inadequate
Relationship difficulties with your partner
Concerns about parenting such as bonding with your baby or not feeling confident about caring for your baby
Feeling anxious about the impending arrival of your baby