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What are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

Perinatal Mood Disorders are changes in mood or thought during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth that cause distress. Most people experience “baby blues” or some sadness in the first few days after giving birth, and this is not a disorder. But distressing symptoms sometimes last longer than the first few days. If you experience the symptoms below, you may have a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). Many other women/birthing people (about 15-20%) have felt this way and you haven’t done anything wrong to cause this. Please reach out for help! Treatment can help prevent a worsening of symptoms and can help you to feel better.

Have you been...

  • Feeling depressed or sad?

  • Feeling irritated or angry with people around you?

  • Feeling anxious or experiencing panic?

  • Feeling like “I should never have been a mom. My baby deserves a better mother”?

  • Crying frequently?

  • Feeling hopeless that things will get better?

  • Having thoughts that are scary and you can’t put them out of your mind?

  • Experiencing changes in your eating or sleeping that aren’t related to your baby’s schedule?

  • Having difficulty feeling close to or bonding with your baby?

  • Feeling like you are out of control or maybe loosing you mind?

  • Wondering if this can possibly be normal because this isn’t what you expected?

  • Worried that you might harm yourself or your baby?


Image Credit: UNC School of Medicine 

If you are having a hard time with your thoughts or moods during the perinatal period (pregnancy, birth and in the first year after giving birth), you don’t have to suffer alone. Help is available. Dr. Barnes-Palty will work with you to help you feel better emotionally and to manage your scary thoughts. You can also work to heal from loss, trauma or frightening experiences related to the perinatal period. You will have the opportunity to learn skills to help you gain confidence in yourself as you prepare to give birth, adjust to parenthood, and care for your baby.


Dr. Barnes-Palty works with people who are planning a pregnancy (pre-conception) or might be using Assisted Reproductive Technology services.


Treatment is available for perinatal loss of either a pregnancy or baby.


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The therapy process focuses on what you are experiencing right now, looking at how your thoughts and feelings are affecting your daily life. After an initial intake appointment to understand your goals, concerns, strengths, and history, Dr. Barnes-Palty will work with you to create a treatment plan based on your individual needs.


Treatment might include the opportunity for:

  • Understanding and improving your emotions,

  • Managing intrusive thoughts

  • Processing experiences

  • Skills building

  • Planning for pregnancy, birth, and parenting

  • Adjusting to the transition to motherhood/parenthood

  • Healing from trauma

  • Processing loss

  • Exploring what it means to you to be a mom/parent.

  • Recommendation for a psychiatric (medication) evaluation if needed,

  • Follow-up appointments to continue treatment and monitor how you are doing.


Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Perinatal Depression

Perinatal Depression (PPD) can happen in pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. Someone with this condition may have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, anger or irritation. It may be hard to concentrate. They may find it hard to be around the baby or have little interest in the baby. They may have changes in sleep habits and appetite. Sometimes Perinatal Depression can lead to thoughts of harming oneself or the baby.

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Image Credit: Dreamstime


Image Credit: Medical News Today

Anxiety During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Someone with Perinatal Anxiety may have extreme worries or concerns about pregnancy, giving birth, or the health and safety of the baby. Sometimes panic attacks occur with Perinatal Anxiety. Someone having a panic attack may feel out of control and have the physical symptoms of a racing heart, pressure on the chest, shortness of breath, dizziness, or a numb or tingling feeling.

OCD During Pregnancy of the First Year Postpartum

People who experience Perinatal OCD experience intrusive, unwanted, and often scary thoughts or images, usually about the safety of the baby (obsessions). Sometimes a specific action is repeated in an effort to relieve the distress of the unwanted thoughts (compulsions). These people are often horrified and ashamed of their thoughts and find them very scary. It is very unlikely that someone would act on these thoughts.

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Image Credit: Helsana

Pregnancy, Birth, or Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Perinatal PTSD can occur after a frightening or traumatic event related to pregnancy, childbirth, the newborn baby, or after a previous trauma. Symptoms can include flashbacks or a re-experiencing of the trauma, increased anxiety, and avoidance of things that are reminders of the traumatic event, which might include avoidance of the baby.

Bipolar Disorder

Many people are first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Bipolar Disorder can look like severe depression or mania and often masquerades as Perinatal Depression. Careful evaluation and monitoring can help differential between the two disorders.

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Image Credit: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Image by Kier In Sight

Postpartum Psychosis

People with Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) may see or hear things that those around them do not (hallucinations). They may believe things that are not true and they may have a distrust of others. People with PPP may appear confused, agitated, manic, or have memory loss. The person experiencing PPP often does not know that there is anything wrong and it is those around them that recognize the problem. While this condition is extremely rare, when it occurs it is a dangerous situation. Seek help immediately (for example, go to a hospital emergency room or call 911).

Partnering with you to create balance, healing and growth,
so that you can experience and enjoy your life more fully.

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