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January 24, 2023
Unpacking The Baby Blues And Postpartum Depression

Jessica Portelli

A woman in a jean jacket stands outside, holding a baby in the air and gently kissing them.

Understanding Perinatal Mood And Anxiety Disorders

Most of us have heard of the terms baby blues and postpartum depression. But what about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders?

Postpartum depression falls under the larger category of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. This term includes depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, psychosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In other words, you can experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder even if you’re not depressed. 

We often misunderstand these mood and anxiety disorders or don’t think they could happen to us. Stigma can also make it harder for you to recognize symptoms or seek treatment for a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. 

What is the baby blues?

The baby blues typically impact 60-80% of new mothers and lasts from two days to two weeks after birth. 

Baby blues can include the following symptoms:

  • Tearfulness
  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Reduced concentration
  • Quick, dramatic changes in mood

If your symptoms last more than two weeks postpartum, you may be experiencing a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, not the baby blues. 

What is a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder?

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders last longer than two weeks and can include symptoms like:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability, agitation, or rage
  • Lack of feelings or connection toward the baby
  • Isolation or social withdrawal
  • Somatic symptoms
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Intrusive and repetitive thoughts
  • Hypervigilance
  • Catastrophizing (i.e., “What if…”)
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Delusional beliefs or thoughts of harming the baby

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can occur during pregnancy, birth, or any time during the first year after the baby is born.

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can affect pregnant, birthing people, their partners, and people of all genders. It is estimated that one in five to seven women, and one in 10 partners, experience perinatal depression.

Assumptions about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Here are some common misconceptions about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. We might assume that these disorders:

  • Are the same as the baby blues
  • Only occur in the first few months after the baby is born
  • Only affect the birthing parent
  • Only involve being depressed or crying all the time
  • They will go away on their own.

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders do not go away on their own. However, these disorders are treatable. You will feel/be okay again!

When should you get support? 

You should seek support if your symptoms intensify, if they impact your daily functioning, or if you think of harming yourself or your baby. Therapy can help you to cope with feelings and challenges, establish emotional and practical support, communicate better, and foster resilience. 

Recovery is possible

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you’re not alone. We have excellent therapy worksheets on stress, negative thinking styles, and filling your emotional bank account. Or you can reach out to our care team! We'd be glad to help you figure out the best next step.

Ready to take your learning a step further? Save your spot today for Jessica’s free webinar, “Beyond the Baby Blues”, on January 31 at 5 pm.

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