Can you guess what the most common complication is when having a child?
Elevated Blood Pressure? Not it, either.
Blood loss? Could be likely, but no.
When having a baby, the most common complication is a PMAD.
If that’s a new acronym for you, it stands for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Google dictionary says that “Perinatal” means “relating to the time, usually a number of weeks, immediately before and after birth.” However, we’re going to say that “Perinatal” applies to most of pregnancy and all the way up to about a year after giving birth.
So, a PMAD is any bit of depression, anxiety, or postpartum OCD that occurs during the roughly 18mos of pregnancy and parenting an infant. The statistics are that 15-20% of all women will experience something…but that statistic only takes into account the women who bring it up to their doctor.
I’ve been wrestling with this since I took an eight-hour course from Perinatal Support Washington. Because this is such a widespread and common struggle, it was a really important class, and one of the things that was talked about was the importance of “normalizing” PMADS; of talking about these issues so much that there is no longer a stigma attached, but instead women can feel comfortable in being open if they’re struggling.
I’m struggling with the impression that perhaps this is so normal that women are “doomed” to having difficulties with their mental health after having a baby. I don’t think it has to be that way. At the same time, if it’s so common, I’d love to stop considering these struggles a “disorder.” Let’s flip this script a bit.
Perhaps, instead of considering the high rate of PMADs a mental health crisis, we should instead consider it a sign of a lack of normalized support. I’m not sure that we have a mental health crisis as much as we have a postpartum care crisis. I hope that we can start re-learning how vital family care is, how important mothers are to all of society, and how to surround a new family with the care and nurturing that they need so that we don’t have to have long, eight-hour community classes on PMADs.
I’m going to break this down into two main areas: Social Support and Physical Support. Because this might get a bit long, I think each one needs their own post, where we can talk about some of the main factors, pitfalls, and how we can all work together to create more normalized strength and health.
In general, we are witnessing an encouraging realization about how healthy mothers are a starting point for healthy families, and healthy families are the building block for a healthy society. We’ve made some decent progress, but we’ve obviously got farther to go. Let’s do this.