Etymologically, “peri” is a Greek prefix meaning “near” or “around” and “natal” comes from the Latin word “natus” which means “made” and then “born.” Broadly “perinatal” refers to the period of time in a women’s life surrounding pregnancy and childbirth. While there is some ambiguity, the perinatal period generally encompasses pregnancy and the first year after childbirth.
What are Mood and Anxiety Disorders?
Mood and anxiety disorders are two mental health classes that professionals use to broadly describe depressive and bipolar disorders (mood), and worry/fear-related disorders (anxiety). Occasional times of sadness and worry are totally normal. Mood and anxiety disorders are more intense, tend to not go away on their own, and get in the way of daily life.
Mood and anxiety disorders tend to co-occur, which is why we talk about them together. They are also extremely common (up to 30% of people will experience a mood or anxiety disorder in their lifetime) and highly treatable with psychotherapy and/or medication.
While pregnancy and new motherhood are often romanticized as joyful and exciting, the challenges inherent in childbearing and child-rearing can lead to significant mental health consequences—most commonly, mood and anxiety disorders.
In the US, approximately 20-25% of women are diagnosed with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD). The impact of PMADs reaches far beyond the expectant or new mother—to fathers, partners, grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The impact of mental health conditions can be felt in all communities, workplaces, and families in the United States. Assessment and treatment of PMADs are critical to the optimal developmental and psychological functioning of the whole family.
Types of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are associated with increased risks of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and are recognized as a significant patient safety issue. While postpartum depression is the most commonly discussed PMAD, there is a much broader class of psychiatric conditions commonly encountered by women of reproductive age. Although the term “postpartum depression” is most often used, there are several types of illness that women may experience, including: