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Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Causes of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Perinatal mood disorders are real medical illnesses and can affect any woman—regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. Women are not to blame or at fault for having perinatal mood disorders: it is not brought on by anything a woman has or has not done. Perinatal mood disorders do not have a single cause. Research suggests that perinatal disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Life stress (for example, demands at work or experiences of past trauma), the physical and emotional demands of childbearing and caring for a new baby, and changes in hormones that occur during and after pregnancy can contribute to the development of perinatal disorders. In addition, women are at greater risk for developing perinatal disorders if they have a personal or family history of mental health (i.e. depression, bipolar, addiction) or if they have experienced perinatal mood disorders with a previous pregnancy.


Characterized by feelings of guilt, fatigue, loss of

interest in things, or feeling sad.


Symptoms can be persistent worry, muscle tension, restlessness, difficulty sleeping, or easily overwhelmed.


Women may be unusually energetic, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, impulsivity, irritability or talkativeness.


Panic is severe anxiety that occurs suddenly, causes shortness of breath, feeling loss of control, heart racing, tremors, or hot/cold flashes.


This treatable condition often includes feeling out of touch with reality, paranoia, hearing or seeing things, difficulty concentrating, or experiencing delusions.


OCD causes intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. These obsessions and compulsions can include fear of contamination, need for order, ridged routines, persistent checking, or unpleasant images/thoughts.


Pregnancy and childbirth can be traumatic. Symptoms include flashbacks, hypervigilance, avoiding things that are reminders of the event, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, or irritability.

Local Help

Access our list of local psychotherapists in the Triad area

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)

Perinatal mood disorders that can affect women during pregnancy and after childbirth. The word “perinatal” refers to the time before and after the birth of a child. Perinatal mood disorders can begin during pregnancy (called prenatal depression) or start after the baby is born (called postpartum depression). Mothers with perinatal mood disorders experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue that may make it difficult for them to carry out daily tasks, including caring for themselves or others.

Baby Blues

The “baby blues” is a term used to describe mild mood changes and feelings of worry, unhappiness, and exhaustion that many women sometimes experience in the first 2 weeks after having a baby. Babies require around-the-clock care, so it’s normal for mothers to feel tired or overwhelmed sometimes. If mood changes and feelings of anxiety or unhappiness are severe, or if they last longer than 2 weeks, a woman may have postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders.

Treatments for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

Treatment for perinatal mood disorders is important for the health of both the woman and the baby, as mood disorders can have serious health effects on both. With proper treatment, most women feel better and their symptoms improve. Treatment for perinatal mood disorders often includes psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. A medical or mental health provider can help women choose the best treatment based on their symptoms.

Psychotherapy, known as "talk therapy" or "counseling", is provided by licensed mental health providers. Some therapists are specifically trained in perinatal mood disorders and have acquired the credentials PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health- Certificate). Psychotherapy can help women with perinatal mood disorders by improving coping skills for managing mood symptoms, education, support, and treatment. 

National Institute of Mental Health

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