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Know the difference between “baby blues” and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders

Let’s talk about the difference between “baby blues,” perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), and postpartum psychosis.

Baby blues are very common. About 80 percent of mothers experience mood swings and weepiness during the first two to three weeks after baby arrives. This is totally normal due to the huge hormonal changes that occur during and after childbirth. Acute sleep deprivation is also a factor. Baby blues usually disappear on their own with proper rest, nutrition and support.

If mom continues to struggle with mood or anxiety for longer than about two weeks, it could be a sign of a more clinical problem such as perinatal mood disorder or perinatal anxiety.

Mood disorder is an umbrella term that can include depression and bipolar disorder. Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term that can include anxiety, panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Symptoms for mood disorders may include:

  • feelings of sadness
  • feelings of emptiness
  • crying spells
  • irritability or rage
  • sleep disturbances
  • apathy
  • lack of energy/motivation, decrease in personal care activities
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • appetite changes

*This is not an exhaustive list, just some common symptoms.

Symptoms for anxiety disorders may include:

  • frequent worry
  • panic, fear of losing control
  • physical symptoms such as increased heart rate and breathing, feeling keyed up or on edge, inability to relax or sleep
  • intrusive thoughts, obsessing over care for baby

*This is not an exhaustive list, just some common symptoms.

Fortunately, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are very treatable. Moms do not need to suffer with symptoms. As we like to say at Postpartum Support International: “You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will be well.”

There are two peer-to-peer support groups serving moms in the Huntsville/Madison area, including one run by Teresa Fleischmann through Postpartum Support International-Alabama. To attend this group, send an email to The other local support group is organized by Mama Circle. Check them out on Facebook.

There are also a number of national support groups with very specific topics that meet online. You can learn more about these groups here.

Postpartum Support International has coordinators in every state to provide moms with support and encouragement and connect moms with local resources. If you need help, just call 1 (800) 944-4773.

If mom or her support persons want to seek therapy, email and they can provide a list of vetted mental health professionals in the Huntsville area who have specific training in treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).

Prescription medications are another option. At Postpartum Support International, we support whatever decision a mom makes in regards to taking or not taking medication for PMADs. There is a lot of stigma and misinformation about mothers taking medication during pregnancy or while lactating, so we encourage moms to empower themselves with evidence-based information. A good place to start is here.

While up to 20 percent of new moms will develop a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, postpartum psychosis is very rare. It is also a medical emergency. A mom who experiences postpartum psychosis may have a break from reality, experience hallucinations, become paranoid or act manic. Postpartum psychosis symptoms usually appear within the first 72 hours to two weeks after birth.

Even though we have focused on mom in this blog, we can’t forget our dads/partners. We don’t want them to fall to the wayside and silently struggle. Click here for more information about dads and PMADs.


Alicia Schuster-Couch, MA, LPC, PMH-C

Board Chair of the Alabama chapter of Postpartum Support International

This information highlights the services of the HH Health System as well as current health topics important to families. The information is not intended to replace the advice of a physician. Every person is different, so please contact a physician to help you make the appropriate health care decision. HH Health System has made an effort to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of publication.

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