Maternal Mental Health Month Day 28

PMADs- The facts…

Time after time, I encounter both new and seasoned moms in my office saying “no one told me…if I had known…”.  And it’s true!  It’s quite likely that no one did tell them. Not during an annual visit, not during one of the many appointments you have during pregnancy, not during a birth/delivery/baby care class.  It’s very common for women to get through a year or more of pre-conception and pregnancy appointments without ever hearing about depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or paychosis during pregnancy or postpartum. It’s often not until after the baby is born that providers hearing from women who are confused by how poorly they feel.


Although many providers focus on the first year postpartum when talking about maternal mental health, the effects of how a mother experiences the first year with her baby can last a lifetime.  A mother can carry with her all the self-doubts and negative feelings that developed during that early postpartum time.  It can effect how she relates to her children as they move through adolescence and how she relates to her partner over time.  And it is with this lasting impact in mind that I offer the following information so that women can be better informed.  Education about what a mom is feeling and the facts around PMADs is part of the work I do and can be very helpful to women suffering with these diagnosis.


The following information is commonly accepted and widely known in the Perinatal Mental Health community.  More information or details can be found at Postpartum Support International’s site

The facts…

  • Upwards of 15-20% of women experience a PMAD during pregnancy or the first year after a baby is born.  
  • Postpartum Depression is the number one complication of childbirth.  
  • Untreated, postpartum depression can lead the mother to suicide.
  • Postpartum Anxiety can be experienced as general symptoms of anxiety or can be more a more specific anxiety disorder such as Postpartum OCD (3-5% of new moms) or Postpartum Panic Disorder.  
  • About 9% of women will develop Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Though it has been found that up to half of women experience childbirth as traumatic, all may not develop PTSD as a result.  
  • Postpatum Psychosis affects 1-2 in 1,000 women.  It has symptoms including hallucinations, delusional thinking and paranoid thoughts, and usually sets in in the first 2 weeks.  It can result in suicide (5%) or infanticide (4%).  
  • Bipolar Disorder can also have onset during the postpartum period and should be considered and monitored for if a mother has had episodes of mania before.  
  • Women who have experienced PPD after a birth have a 75% increased likelihood to experience PPD after a subsequent birth.  

Who is at risk to get a PMAD?

  • Pregnant women
  • Women who are within one year postpartum (though if untreated, or treated late, symptoms can extend beyond first year)
  • Mothers who have had a PMAD before
  • Fathers
  • Lesbian partners (the mom not carrying the baby)
  • Parents who give their baby up for adoption
  • Adoptive parents
  • Someone who has suffered a fetal or infant loss

Factors that increase your risk for a PMAD:

  • low income/socioeconomic disadvantage
  • single mother
  • military mother or in the military 
  • LGBTQ population
  • family history of anxiety or depression
  • having your own previous episodes of depression or anxiety
  • history of previous trauma
  • parents of multiples


Arming yourself with information can help you prepare or help lessen your risk. The best news about PMADs are that they are temporary and treatable.  You will get better! 


About Carpe Diem Counseling LLC

I am a licensed clinical social worker whose practice specializes in working with women (and their families) during the pregnancy and postpartum time period. Please contact me if you believe you or someone in your life is experiencing a Perinatal or Postpartum mental health issue. I also work with any adults experiencing a life change and struggling with the challenges and adjustments they are encountering. Addressing our struggles in life happens one day at a time. There is no wrong time to get help.
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