Frequently Asked Questions
What are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders? (PMADs)
These are a group of symptoms that can affect women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, causing emotional and physical problems that make it hard to enjoy life and function well. Mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, can include symptoms of sadness, loss of pleasure, difficulty concentrating and changes in energy. Anxiety disorders, often include symptoms such as worrying too much, panic attacks, irritability and obsessionality. See below for more specific descriptions of normal mood variations with childbirth, as well as different types of mood and anxiety disorders that can affect pregnant and postpartum women.
Normal Postpartum Adjustment
Becoming a new parent is stressful, and some difficulty adjusting to parenthood is considered normal. Normal postpartum adjustment may involve symptoms similar to Baby Blues (see below), and it’s likely that most new mothers experience some of these symptoms during the first few months after childbirth. However, if these symptoms are interfering with mom’s normal coping abilities, functioning or parenting, something more serious (like a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder) may be happening.
“I’m feeling sad, irritable, and absolutely exhausted; it’s like I can’t catch a break. Do I have postpartum depression?”
Not necessarily! It’s normal to encounter all of those feelings after delivery. In fact, between 60% and 80% of women experience what professionals describe as the “Baby Blues,” or feelings of exhaustion, irritation, and sadness after having given birth. These symptoms typically begin anywhere from one to three days post-delivery and may last between two and fourteen days. If your feelings persist past two weeks, however, contact a professional; you may be experiencing Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs).
“I thought I had the Baby Blues, but my feelings have persisted past two weeks. What’s going on?”
You may be experiencing postpartum depression, but you are not alone. More than 15% of women experience postpartum depression, perhaps even more given that the diagnosis goes highly unreported. Any woman who has given birth within the past 12 months can receive the diagnosis if she experiences the following symptoms:
- Low mood, sadness, tearfullness
- Loss of interest, joy, or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- Agitation or anxiety
- Lack of energy or feeling slowed down physically
- Difficulty concentrating
- Appetite or sleep disturbance
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
Remember, every case of postpartum depression is different. You do NOT need to meet all of these symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, please call The Motherhood Center at (212) 335-0034 for help.
“My mind won’t stop racing with worry and it’s getting to the point where I am having trouble completing my normal day-to-day activities. Is something wrong with me?”
Most new mothers feel as though they have a thousand things to worry about after having a baby. However, if your feelings of anxiety are interfering with your overall functioning, you may be experiencing Postpartum Anxiety. Like most of the PMADS, Postpartum Anxiety is rather common; 1 in every 10 women endures postpartum anxiety after GIVING birth and 6% of women experience it while still pregnant. Symptoms include:
- Constant worry
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Feeling like you can’t turn your brain off
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Physical Symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, and nausea.
If you have given birth within the past 12 months and identify with any or all of the symptoms mentioned above, please call The Motherhood Center at (212) 335-0034 for help.
“I’ve never been diagnosed with OCD, but I am having obsessive thoughts about my baby -- that something bad will happen to him/her. Why can’t I stop thinking like this?”
Many mothers experience Postpartum OCD without ever having any previous diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. In fact, between 3-5% of mothers report feeling as though they cannot escape these intrusive, irrational and upsetting thoughts unless they engage in a repetitive act. You may be experiencing Postpartum OCD if you encounter any of the following symptoms within twelve months of giving birth:
- Obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images regarding the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting
- Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to try to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, checking things many times, counting or reordering things.
- A sense of horror about these obsessions
- Fear of being left alone with the infant
- Hypervigilance in protecting the infant
It’s important to know that mothers with Postpartum OCD understand the strange nature of their thoughts and are disturbed by them. Therefore the likelihood of ever acting upon these intrusions is very low.
“I’m having some really strange thoughts about my baby and sometimes I feel like others know what I’m thinking. Is this a normal part of the postpartum period?”
If you are seeing or hearing things other people are not, are feeling as though others are out to get you, are hearing or seeing things that others may not, or if you are experiencing highly unusual thoughts regarding yourself or your child, you may be suffering from Postpartum Psychosis. Postpartum Psychosis is rather rare, affecting only 0.1-0.2% of all births. However, it is a serious disorder and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Delusions or strange beliefs that feel real
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Feeling confused
- Feeling disconnected from reality
- Decreased need for or inability to sleep
- Paranoia and suspiciousness
- Difficulty communicating at time
While acts of harm to oneself or the baby are uncommon, women suffering from Postpartum Psychosis may do things they might not otherwise do given their altered state. Therefore, seeking urgent attention from professionals is paramount to keeping you and your baby safe. Please call 911 if you believe you or someone you know is experiencing Postpartum Psychosis.
What is the DAY PROGRAM?
“What happens in a day program?”
Consider a “day program” to be similar to going to school. For six hours a day, Monday through Friday, you will go through a series of different “activities” that work to set you off on the best path to feeling better. At the Motherhood Center, these activities include personal medical assessments, individual and group therapy sessions, and educational classes that encompass everything from infant sleep settling to psychoeducation. For more details on the day program, click HERE.
The day program sounds like something I could really benefit from. How do I join?
The Motherhood Center currently has room for 15 participants, each of whom receive treatment Monday – Friday from 9:30AM to 2:30 PM for between ten and fifteen days. Onsite childcare is provided so that moms can bring their babies to the program. Please call (212) 335-0034 for an intake assessment to see if this program is something that could work for you. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 911 or go to your local emergency room immediately.
I want to participate in the day program, but I don’t have adequate care for my baby. Does this mean I am ineligible?
Here at the Motherhood Center we are committed to serving the family at large, and this includes the family’s newest member! Therefore, we offer an in-house nursery run by a caring and trained professional staff and thus encourage the mothers to bring their baby to group every day. However, if you would prefer to utilize outside services, we have a great network of nearby childcare centers that would love to accommodate you and your child. Click HERE to learn more.
I just completed the day program, but I still want more. How do I stay involved with the Motherhood Center?
Just because you completed our day program service does NOT mean that you have exhausted all of the services that our center has to offer! We are committed to walking with all mothers throughout their entire prenatal and postpartum journey. Click HERE for more information on our classes and education programs.
PREGNANCY / NURSING AND MEDICATION
“Is it harmful to my baby to take medication while I’m pregnant or nursing?”
Many psychiatric medications are considered relatively safe to take during pregnancy and nursing. While most women would like to be off all medications during the perinatal period, it may not be the wisest choice given the seriousness of psychiatric symptoms. No decision is risk free -- if you have depression or anxiety, you have to make a choice between the symptoms of your illness versus taking a medication to treat those symptoms. It's important to talk with an expert or someone who is up to date on the latest research and able to discuss which choice makes the most sense for you, in your individual situation.
BREASTFEEDING VS BOTTLE FEEDING
“I’m having issues with breastfeeding. If I choose to move to bottle feedings, does this mean I am a bad mom?”
Both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are great ways to provide milk to your newborn and we see great value in both of the means. Whichever way you choose to supply milk has no repercussions/impact on your value as a mother.
HOW TO HELP FAMILY AND FRIENDS
"I’m close to someone who just had a baby, and I’m worried about her. How do I know she needs professional help?”
Often times, new and expecting mothers suffering from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder hide their thoughts and feelings because they feel guilty or shameful for having them. They are fearful that they will judged so they keep them inside. If you are worried that someone might be suffering silently from a PMAD, or is openly exhibiting some of the symptoms discussed above, call us at The Motherhood Center 212-335-0034