Dear mom, we are glad you are here. We know how important your role is, how much you work and sacrifice for your family! We know how hard it can be, we know the struggles, we were there! We are here to listen. We don’t judge!  We want you to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 

What causes Perinatal Mood Disorders?

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on this one. The most recent research shows that PMADs do not have a single cause, but result from complex interactions between a woman's environment and her biology.  There is certainly some genetic contribution to the risk for PMADs, but the exact mechanisms are unknown.

While there is no known cause for PMADs, some women are at increased risk for developing these disorders. Common environmental risk factors include:

  • Symptoms of PMADs during or after a previous pregnancy

  • Past obstetric complications (e.g. fertility problems or miscarriages)

  • Personal history of mental illness

  • Family history of mental illness

  • Weak psychosocial support network

  • Poor relationship quality with partner

  • History of alcohol or drug misuse

  • Early history of abuse, neglect, or trauma

Stress during the perinatal period is a major contributor to risk for PMADs. 

Some factors that can increase a new mother’s stress include:

  • Major stressful life events (e.g. recent miscarriage, job loss, death of a loved one, or illness)

  • Everyday stress (e.g. interpersonal violence, financial hardship)

  • Medical complications during childbirth (e.g. premature delivery, long labor)

  • Having an infant with medical problems 

  • Undesired or unplanned pregnancy

  • Difficulties with breastfeeding

  • Impaired mother-infant interactions 

  • Having an infant who can’t sleep as expected

  • Single or teen parenthood

  • Multiple births

Not all women who have risk factors go on to develop a PMAD… what protects these women? Protective factors that buffer against PMADs include: 

  • Good physical health (regular exercise, healthful diet)

  • Strong support networks – family, friends, community, other new parents

  • Strong sense of identity and cultural belonging

  • Good coping and problem-solving skills

  • Optimism – a belief that life has meaning and hope

  • Positive attitude 

  • Access to mental health services

  • Comfort asking for help 


What about other perinatal mental health disorders? 

While PMADs account for the majority of perinatal mental health concerns, some women develop Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Postpartum Psychosis, or Postpartum Eating Disorders. Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can also occur as a result of a traumatic child birthing experience or can result from previous trauma. 


I think I might be struggling with a PMAD… What can I do? 

The good news is the PPSC is a great place to start. PMADs are serious mental health conditions, but they are also highly treatable with the right kind of help. Psychotherapy and medication are both viable and effective treatment options depending on your situation.  

Here at the PPSC, we are not only a resource for information, but are also committed to providing you support through Self-screening tests, Support Line, Support Groups, Mom to Mom peer support, and referrals.


Wondering where to turn for help? Doing a self-assessment for depression, anxiety, or OCD can help.


Practical and emotional support are important in protecting against perinatal mental health disorders. Take this survey to see how your social support system measures up.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are concerned about someone else who may be suicidal, please call the Buckelew Suicide Prevention Hotline: 

For Sonoma County: 1-855-587-6373

For Marin County: 415-499-1100

For Grief Support: 415-499-1195

National Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255



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Postpartum Support Center is a fiscally sponsored project of MarinLink, a California nonprofit corporation exempt from federal tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service #20-0879422.

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