When It’s More Than the “Baby Blues”

By: Kristen Lipari, Ph.D. | July 22, 2022

Depression and Anxiety During and After Pregnancy


Bringing a child into the world can be one of the biggest and happiest events in your life, but it can also be extremely stressful. Many physical and emotional changes happen during, and after pregnancy, bringing on unique mental health challenges. It is very common for pregnant people and new parents to feel sad, anxious, overwhelmed, worried, or exhausted. In fact, an estimated 80% of birthing people experience these symptoms postpartum, often referred to as the “Baby Blues.”

While mild mood changes are common, they typically subside within two weeks. When symptoms persist, or worsen, it could be a sign of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD).

When To Be Concerned

The period when a person is pregnant and after the baby is born is called the “perinatal” period. PMAD is diagnosed when a person experiences the following symptoms that last longer than two weeks:

    • Withdrawal from your baby or partner
    • Severe anxiety that interferes with sleep
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Preoccupation with death
    • Irritability
    • Worrying a lot of the time
    • Unwanted or upsetting thoughts
    • Feeling less interested in your baby than you might expect
    • Feeling sad when everyone is telling you how happy you must feel

It’s hard to imagine caring for a newborn and managing these challenges! While we can’t fully predict the onset of PMADs, we know that there are significant risk factors that help determine who is at high risk. According to the Postpartum Support International, the following risk factors predispose PMADs:

Risk Factors of PMADs

    • History of mood disorders including previous PMAD
    • Under age 18
    • Lack of social support and relationship stress
    • Financial stress or poverty
    • History of abuse or trauma
    • History of PMS/PMDD
    • Sensitivity to hormonal shifts
    • History of substance abuse

Perinatal Risk Factors

    • Perinatal complications, infertility, miscarriage, or infant loss
    • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
    • Breastfeeding difficulties
    • Having multiples (e.g., twins, triplets)
    • Difficult infant temperament
    • Premature delivery or NICU stay
    • Sleep deprivation

Help is Available

All pregnant and postpartum people should be screened for mood and anxiety disorders, especially if you have some of these risk factors in your history. A professional San Diego Psychologist that specializes in perinatal mental health will provide education regarding perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to pregnant and postpartum women and their families. Specialized care can help prevent the development of PMAD, and if symptoms develop, a variety of effective treatment options exist. Contact us today to get the help you need so you can stay ahead of your risk and more fully enjoy time with your new baby.



Photo by Sean Roy on Unsplash

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