Maternal Health

Maternal Health 

Maternal health involves the period of preconception, pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. At Harbor Psychiatry & Mental Health, we recognize that this time – also known as the peripartum period – is a unique time and can be a vulnerable moment for women / pregnant patients and their partners.

To learn more about the HPMH Maternal Health Program, click here

What are PMADs?

PMADs – Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders – are the most common medical complications associated with childbirth. These disorders include Perinatal Depression, Anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bipolar Disorder, and Psychosis.   

For some women, these problems may have been present before pregnancy, and for others, they may emerge for the first time during pregnancy or postpartum. Below are some common PMADs symptoms:  

  • Feeling sad or depressed  
  • Irritability, easily angered with those around you 
  • Intense guilt, shame, or regret  
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby  
  • Feeling anxious or panicky
  • Difficulty with eating or sleeping  
  • Upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind
  • Feeling out of control or “crazy”  
  • Persistent worry / fear that you should never have become a parent 
  • Concern that you may harm yourself or your baby  


    Symptoms typically are considered concerning, and may indicate a need for professional treatment, when they: 

    • Persist over a period of 2-3 weeks, especially after initial 2-3 weeks post childbirth
    • Interfere with daily functioning
    • Worsen over time, instead of improving

    It is important to note that PMADs can occur in fathers / partners and adoptive parents as well. Click here and here to learn more. 

    PMADs vs Baby Blues  

    The “Baby Blues” is a term commonly used to describe the period of normal adjustment immediately following childbirth. About 50-80% of postpartum patients will experience Baby Blues; symptoms include:   

    • Mood swings 
    • Weepiness, crying for “no reason” 
    • Feelings of overwhelm and anxiety 
    • Impatience or poor concentration  
    • Difficulty eating / sleeping  
    • Not feeling “like yourself” 

    The period immediately following childbirth can be a time of immense shifts in lifestyle, identity, and feelings about self / others / the world around you. To this end, it is to be expected that there will be an impact on your mood and emotions. Baby Blues usually: 

    •  Go away on their own over 2-3 weeks 
    • Improve over time; you will gradually feel more capable and stable 
    • Don’t interfere with your general functioning or ability to bond with your baby 

    In contrast, PMADs symptoms persist for longer periods of time, interfere with functioning, and may worsen over time.

    Risk Factors 

    There are several factors that increase a person’s chance of experiencing PMADs:


    • History of depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders  
    • Family history of PMADs or psychiatric disorders 
    • Fertility treatment history  
    • Lack of social support  
    • Stressful or volatile home environment / relationship with partner 
    • Recent life stressors / changes – eg. illness, divorce, move, job change, loss, financial stress 
    • Unplanned / complicated pregnancy
    • Miscarriage or pregnancy loss 
    • Traumatic birth experience  
    • Preterm birth or infant NICU admission  
    • Complications with breastfeeding  
    • Perfectionism / unrealistic expectations  
    • Poor sleep and eating patterns 

    Is Psychiatric Medication Safe During the Peripartum Period?

    Many pregnant / postpartum patients are concerned about utilizing psychiatric medication during this period. However, there are several safe options, and the benefits of taking medicines may outweigh the risks of such treatment. 

    Whenever possible, schedule an appointment with a psychiatric provider that specializes in maternal health who will work with you to make decisions that you can feel good about. 

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    About Harbor Psychiatry & Mental Health

    We believe outstanding healthcare is delivered when we merge the science of medicine with the compassion of our hearts. We refer to this as “head and heart together,” inspiring constant improvement and lasting success.
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