What are Perinatal Mood Episodes?
Most people have heard of postpartum depression and perhaps postpartum anxiety. But, we spend a lot of time focusing on the mental health of mothers after a baby is born. As a result, we might not be spending enough time focusing on what could happen during pregnancy.
One of the risks some expecting mothers face is experiencing perinatal mood episodes. Multiple episodes could even lead to a perinatal mood disorder.
Without the proper treatment, these episodes will likely continue throughout pregnancy and could even end up lasting weeks, months, or years after the baby is born. So, understanding the signs of perinatal mood episodes is essential. The sooner you know what you’re dealing with, the sooner you can get the help you deserve.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at perinatal mood episodes, what to look for, and how you can manage them safely.
Why Perinatal Mood Episodes Are Concerning
It’s normal to experience some mood shifts during pregnancy. After all, your hormones are changing and some days can feel downright overwhelming. But, these subtle shifts are different from mood episodes.
When you’re experiencing a perinatal mood episode, it can get in the way of your daily activities. You might not even want to take care of yourself or your unborn child. The episodes impact women differently. You could be extremely anxious or severely depressed and have a hard time getting out of bed.
The big problem with these episodes is that they can become more frequent without treatment. A day or two of depression is common during pregnancy and is no cause for alarm. However, if episodes become more frequent and dramatic mood changes continue, negatively impacting your quality of life, your health (and your baby’s well-being) could suffer.
What Are the Signs?
Again, your body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy. It can be far too easy to ignore some of the common signs of a perinatal mood episode simply because you think it’s just another “normal” change.
Don’t make that mistake.
First, note that these episodes can shift into a disorder if they consistently continue for two or three weeks. If you’ve been struggling with them that long, it’s time to seek out help. But, what should you be looking for?
Some of the common symptoms of perinatal mood episodes include exhaustion or feeling overly tired, changes in appetite, persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, or anxiousness. You might also feel numb or “empty” at times, which can perpetuate a cycle of depression.
What Can You Do?
Again, the worst thing you can do if you’re experiencing these symptoms is to ignore them or brush them off as normal. If left untreated, these episodes can have a negative impact even after your baby is born. You might not be able to feel as engaged or close with your little one during their first year of life, and that can leave lasting consequences.
Not only can it impact you, but it could impact your child’s development and create attachment issues that might affect them and their relationships for years to come.
If you think you’re experiencing a perinatal mood disorder, reach out to a mental health expert right away. A therapist can help you determine why you might be experiencing these episodes and where they stem from. They can impact any expecting mother, but some women might be at a greater risk because of their history or other factors.
If the symptoms here sound familiar, don’t wait. Be proactive about getting the help you and your baby deserve. Feel free to contact me for more information or to set up an appointment.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.