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Are postpartum depression and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) the same thing?

Updated: Sep 26


Becoming a parent is a profound and transformative experience, but it can also bring about a range of emotional challenges. While many new parents expect to feel joy and happiness after the birth of their child, some may experience emotional distress that goes beyond the "baby blues." Most people are familiar with and may even know people who have experience postpartum depression (PPD). You may also her doctors, mental health professionals, an advocates use the term perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs). In this blog post, we'll explore the differences between the two to help you better understand and identify them.

  1. Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum depression is a specific type of depression that occurs in the weeks or months following childbirth. It affects roughly 10-15% of new mothers. Post-pandemic, some statistics may be as high as 25%. PPD can manifest with a range of symptoms, including:

a. Persistent sadness or low mood b. Loss of interest or pleasure in activities c. Fatigue and low energy d. Feelings of worthlessness or guilt e. Changes in appetite and sleep patterns f. Difficulty concentrating or making decisions g. Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby (in severe cases)

PPD typically begins within the first few months after childbirth but can occur up to a year after delivery. It is often linked to hormonal fluctuations, sleep deprivation, and the challenges of adapting to new parenthood.

  1. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)

Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders encompass a broader category of emotional and mental health conditions that can affect individuals during pregnancy and the postpartum period. PMADs include not only postpartum depression but also conditions like:

a. Perinatal anxiety disorders: Excessive worry, panic attacks, and generalized anxiety that occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. b. Perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): Intrusive, distressing thoughts and repetitive behaviors, often related to the baby's safety or well-being. c. Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety following a traumatic childbirth experience. d. Perinatal bipolar disorder: Episodes of mania or hypomania during pregnancy or the postpartum period, alongside depressive symptoms.

PMADs are more encompassing than PPD and can occur during pregnancy, after childbirth, or both. They can affect both mothers and fathers and can be triggered or exacerbated by various factors, including hormonal changes, past trauma, lack of support, and sleep disturbances.

Key Differences

  1. Scope: PPD is a subset of PMADs, specifically referring to depression following childbirth, whereas PMADs include a broader range of mood and anxiety disorders that can occur during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

  2. Timing: PPD typically starts within the first few months after childbirth, while PMADs can occur during pregnancy, immediately after birth, or up to a year afterward.

  3. Symptoms: PPD primarily involves depressive symptoms, while PMADs encompass a wider range of emotional and anxiety-related symptoms, including panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, and traumatic stress reactions.


Understanding the difference between postpartum depression and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders is a good start for recognizing what may be going on for you or a loved one. PMADs are incredibly treatable and seeking help from the right healthcare professionals, therapists, and support networks is essential for recovery. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PPD or PMADs, don't hesitate to reach out for support, as early intervention can make a significant difference in the journey toward mental well-being during and after pregnancy. Interested in a free consultation to start treatment? Click Book Now to learn more.

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