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  • Writer's pictureJenna Ham, LPC

PMADs: What They Are & When to Seek Help

Photograph by Allison Shumate Photography

The period immediately following a positive pregnancy test (whether it’s your first or fourth) can be filled with a wide variety of emotions. There is often a misconception that joy is the only emotion that is allowed to live in this space, however, the duality of the perinatal and postpartum period is more complex than that. While attempting to navigate your pregnancy and responsibility for new life, it is common to concurrently experience emotions such as happiness, sadness, stress, love, and nervousness. Transitions in life often come with uncertainty and ‘baby blues’ are common. Baby blues describes moodiness and emotional highs and lows within the first few days after giving birth. Many new parents feel this way. Baby blues typically go away on their own and are different than postpartum depression or anxiety. However, If you have been experiencing extreme worries or fears, scary and unwanted thoughts, lack of interest in your child, flashbacks regarding your pregnancy or birth, or sad feelings that last longer than two weeks- you may be struggling with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). As many as 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 dads experience symptoms of depression and anxiety during the perinatal and postpartum period. PMADs do not discriminate and can affect people of every age, socioeconomic status, gender, and culture. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you are not alone, and you deserve to feel like yourself again.


Symptoms of PMADs:

·      Feeling depressed or a void of feeling

·      Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

·      Lack of interest in the baby

·      Brain fog and difficulty concentrating

·      Feeling angry or irritable

·      Feeling anxious or panicky

·      Extreme worries or fears (including the health of the baby)

·      Flashbacks regarding pregnancy or birth

·      Avoiding reminders of the birth

·      Scary and unwanted thoughts

·      Feeling like a “bad parent”

·      Needing little to no sleep and still functioning

·      Increased energy levels

·      Increased pace of speech

·      Seeing images or hearing sounds that others cannot see or hear

·      Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby


Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders include disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and more. The perinatal period refers to the time frame from conception through the first year after giving birth and includes transitions such as hormone fluctuations in pregnancy, post-birth, onset of lactation, weaning, and the re-emergence of menstruation. The postpartum period refers to the first year after giving birth. Each of these stages and changes in hormones can come with risk factors for PMADs. During these periods, seeking help can feel intimidating due to common assumptions of pregnancy and parenting. Misconceptions such as ‘all pregnancies are planned, ‘being a parent is instinctual’, and ‘needing help means I’m a bad mother/father’ are recurrent within today’s society and may lead to a hesitation to seek out help. The reality of pregnancy and birth is that 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, multiple experiences within parenting do not come naturally, and it’s okay to ask for support. A professional can help create a family postpartum plan, teach emotional regulation skills, provide a safe place to process your pregnancy and birth experience, and work with you to create a treatment plan to target distressing symptoms.


If any of the above symptoms are familiar to you and are affecting your day-to-day life, it may be time to seek professional help. If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our therapists with specialized training in women’s health and perinatal mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out. If you are experiencing any thoughts of harming yourself or your child or are seeing/hearing images and sounds that others cannot see or hear, please seek immediate help by calling 911 or going to your local emergency room. Help is available and experiencing these symptoms does not define you as a parent.


Additional Resources:


Postpartum Support International (PSI):

Postpartum Support Virginia (PSV):


PSI helpline: Call or text “HELP” to 800-944-4773; Text en Español: 971-203-7773


Support groups offered through PSV:

Support for partners and families:



Postpartum support international - PSI. Postpartum Support International (PSI). (2023, November 17). 

Postpartum support virginia - PSV. Postpartum Support Virginia (PSV). (2023, November 17).

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