Everyday, I hear stories of individuals’ experiences with Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and the grief that occurs after the diagnosis. Sometimes grief is about recognizing that this is not what they expected having babies to be like. Sometimes the grief is about the isolation and loneliness that comes with feeling judged for not enjoying every moment. Everyone tells their story and reflects on how this experience has impacted them and what they need. As a therapist who specializes in working with perinatal clients, I validate and support them as they make sense of what they are going through and what they need.
Today, I realized I must do even more. I listened as a mom processed feeling let down by our medical community and feeling like she needed more knowledge of what could happen to her when she became pregnant. Our medical communities, hospital systems, and culture has gotten better at talking about postpartum depression. We have guidelines from governing bodies encouraging providers to screen and assess for depression, however, for many providers it stops there. This client shared with me that they needed to hear more education on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders… not just postpartum depression.
When I talk about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders, I am talking about a time period that covers pregnancy to even past 12 months. In fact, I see many people “white knuckle it” trying to keep it together and still be suffering 2-3 years later. I am talking about more than just depression, there is anxiety, panic, obsessive compulsive thoughts, mood swings, mania and even psychosis. I am talking about your sister, your brother, you partner, your co-worker experiencing symptoms that impact their ability to eat, sleep, and relate to others. I am talking about 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men. I am talking about how 1 in 3 women of color will experience postpartum depression in the year after they give birth.
Our culture has painted this picture, that to have Perinatal Depression is to “not want to be around your baby.” That is only one way that Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders present. What we need is to be a culture and medical community that talks about what can happen during and after pregnancy or the experience of adding a child to your family. I am talking about education and information. Many people fail to communicate the range of symptoms that can happen to “protect” birthing persons. What is scarier for a birthing person or partner talking about perinatal bipolar and mania, or living it with no understanding of what is happening to you and where to get help?
We need to talk about the range of things that happen during this time frame not just one part.
Talking about it takes away the isolation of “What is wrong with me?” Talking about it leads to opening up to a doctor, counselor, friend, or social worker. Talking about it connects you to others and lets you know you are not alone. Talking about it disrupts the messages that are perpetuated by culture, family systems, or gender roles.
Talking about it can save your life, but we must have the vocabulary to start the conversation.
If you would like to know more about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders please visit:
Postpartum Support International https://www.postpartum.net
Perinatal Mental Health Alliance for People of Color www.pmhapoc.org