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What are PMADs?

Each year about 4,000 women in Pima County suffer with anxiety and depression around childbirth.  Many of these women are not identified or treated.  Suffering in silence can lead to chronic depression for the mother, an inability to feel the joy of parenting and to engage in the lives of her children, and relationship difficulties. The worst outcomes can occur when a mother cannot care for her children, might even harm or neglect them, and can bring harm to herself.

What Are Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders?

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) are considered the leading complication of childbirth. The period of concern includes preconception health, pregnancy and the first 18 months postpartum. Pregnancy and new motherhood place a woman at greater risk for developing a perinatal mood disorder which can include prenatal depression and anxiety, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety which includes obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and postpartum psychosis (PPP). It is estimated that 20% of childbearing women suffer from perinatal depression or anxiety, with much higher prevalence rates where multiple risk factors occur. A rare 0.1-0.2% of women will develop postpartum psychosis. In Pima County, where an estimated 14,000 live births occur annually, approximately 4000 women and their families may be affected by perinatal mood disorders.

Awareness of PMAD is increasing as a result of growing concern about the effects of PMAD on women, infants and their families. PMADs are associated with adverse obstetrical outcomes such as pre-term labor, low birth-weight babies and transmission of psychopathology to the fetus. A woman’s ability to establish critical attachment to her infant is significantly compromised when suffering from a PMAD. Studies demonstrate that children (pre-school through adolescence) who had attachment problems in infancy are more aggressive, display difficulty managing emotions, and are at risk for developing serious psychopathology. PMADs have long-term consequences on women’s lives as well as their partners with increased risk for substance abuse, chronic depression and disturbed relationships.

What Does It Feel Like?


Sluggishness, fatigue, sadness, hopelessness, in a fog Appetite and sleep change, confusion, poor concentration, memory loss, Lack of interest, uncontrollable crying, over-concern for the baby guilt, inadequacy, shame, worthlessness, fear of being alone, Fear of harming self/baby, exaggerated high and lows, intrusive thoughts, intense fear, anxiety, anger, sense of doom, wish to leave situation, Fast heart rate, dizziness, tingling, chest pain, & shaking.

How Can I Tell If I Am At Risk?


The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale helps you determine if you may need help with perinatal mood & anxiety disorders. Complete this anonymous easy 10-item assessment online to find out now.  También disponible en español.

Is There Help in Tucson?


Yes, please see our Resource page.

What Are The Usual Treatments For Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders?


Many women engage in counseling, marital therapy, medication, & support groups to help resolve and heal perinatal emotional illness. These options are available locally & each women may choose what avenue is most beneficial for her.

Support in the form of doula care, babysitters, play groups, group exercise programs, phone support from peers who have shared this experience, faith-based support, and family and friends is a very helpful addition to any treatment.

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