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"I seemed to be suffering emotional amnesia. I couldn't genuinely cry, or laugh, or be moved by anything. For the sake of those around me, including my son, I pretended, but when I began showering again in the second week, I let loose in the privacy of the bathroom, water flowing over me as I heaved uncontrollable sobs."
- Bryce Dallas Howard, Actress
The perinatal period is the time frame from conception through the first year after giving birth. However, maternal and paternal mental health issues can extend beyond this period due to being unrecognized, not having access to care, or going untreated.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders do not discriminate and they can impact anyone (1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers). Every year more than 400,000 infants are born to mothers who are depressed, making perinatal depression the most under diagnosed obstetric complication in America.
If you're feeling more down than you expected, anxious, angry, or just not connected to yourself after becoming a parent, you're are not alone. You are not to blame.
Trauma can happen to anyone and is unique to each person. You don't have to receive a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to receive help. Trauma lives inside your brain, manifests in the body, and impacts your quality of life.
Trauma can occur from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, intergenerational trauma (systemic racism), a traumatic birth, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent assault.
People living with trauma can have intense, disturbing thoughts and feelings related to their experience that last long after the traumatic event has ended. Events may live on through intrusive thoughts or nightmares; through feelings of sadness, fear, or anger; and through feelings of detachment or being estranged from other people. People with trauma may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event(s). They may have strong negative reactions to something as ordinary as a loud noise, an accidental touch, a crying baby, a scent, a fabric texture, or anything that brings them back to the traumatic experience.
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations. It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. Anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness because they involve excessive fear or anxiety (e.g., difficulty controlling worry, unable to sleep or have restful sleep, feeling restless or on edge). Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives.
Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness, anger, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home (e.g., not wanting to get out of bed, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, isolating, feeling hopeless or helpless, or thoughts of suicide).
Life transitions, or adjustments, are life stressors impacting one's quality of life. They can include things like transitioning out of the military, marital conflict, finances, or work stress. Becoming a parent is another example of a major life transition, and as noted above, can have huge impacts.
With the added layer of a global pandemic to contend with, humanity is struggling to navigate this unexpected life transition alongside the day-to-day issues. Everything has changed and with that comes feelings of fear, anger, resentment, grief, loss, and so much more. .