What can I do to get help if I have a PMAD?
Only a trained healthcare or mental health professional can tell you whether you have a perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. If you or your loved one continue to have difficulty during this time, it may be helpful for you to contact a mental health professional for additional support. If you, or your baby, are currently a patient at CHOP, speak with your (or your baby’s) medical team about connecting you with a member of the psychosocial support team (e.g., social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists).
If you are now at home with your baby and are looking for support from a therapist, there are different ways to seek treatment. If you have insurance, you can call the phone number on the back of your insurance card and talk with an agent about what in-network mental/behavioral health services are available to you. Be ready to discuss some of what you have been through so they can best match you with the appropriate services.
You can also ask your obstetric (OB) provider or hospital social worker for resources in your area. If talking one-on-one doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, you can look for an online group or a local support group in your area.
Postpartum Support International is an organization dedicated to helping men, women and couples coping with pregnancy and postpartum related issues. They offer online support groups for men and women, and have a state coordinators who can provide you with recommendations for helpful resources in your area.
Another online resource that can help you find a therapist is psychologytoday.com. You can search their website by ZIP code to find a list of providers in your area, search for in-network providers, find therapists who treat adults or couples, and narrow down results based on specialization of specific areas of concern (e.g., depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.).
Things to consider when looking for a therapist:
- Would you be most comfortable with someone who would meet with you individually or as a couple?
- Would you prefer to meet with a male or female therapist?
- How often can the therapist meet with you, and how long is the new patient waiting list?
- Does the therapist have morning, evening or weekend sessions available to accommodate your schedule?
- Are you able to bring your baby to the appointment, if necessary?
It is recommended that you set up appointments with two to three different therapists to determine which one is the best “fit” for you and your family.
It is important that you establish a comfortable rapport with your therapist. Treatment may involve talking about your experience and learning ways to cope. Medication may be offered as well. Many medications are safe to use in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Speak with your OB provider about safe options.
What can I do to help myself or my loved one?
In a difficult pregnancy or with a new baby with complex medical needs, there can be many moments when you may feel overwhelmed by your feelings. There is not a timeline for when you will feel better emotionally, so it is important to be patient and loving toward yourself and your loved ones. Taking care of both your physical and emotional health is necessary to support you through this challenging time.
Recommendations for self-care:
- Focus on getting sleep every night.
- Keep hydrated by drinking water or juice. Avoid caffeine (in coffee, tea and soda) in the afternoon, as these items may make it hard for you to sleep.
- Eat healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables. Stay away from junk food, fast food and too many sweets.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the variety of emotions you may be feeling.
- Try to do something active every day once you have been medically cleared by your provider. Go for a walk. Get outside for a while. Feel the warmth of the sunshine on your face.
- Seek out quiet moments for meditation or prayer.
- Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Start a blog. Find ways to express what you are thinking and feeling.
- Practice deep breathing, taking in slow, deep breaths through your nose and then releasing the air slowly through your mouth.
- Read books and poems or listen to music that you like and find comforting.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation: Lay on a bed or couch and simply be aware of your entire body. Begin by focusing attention on your toes and work your way up to the top of your head. Note any tension or physical discomfort. Contract your muscles in each of those areas and then, with a big exhale, let the tension drop away. (Listen to guided relaxation audio recordings.)
- Take a bath/shower with soaps that are pleasing to you (e.g., lavender, chamomile, etc.).
- Ask others for help and support. Tell them exactly what they can do for you. Ask them to help with childcare, pet sitting, grocery shopping, making meals, or just spending time with you at home.
- Talk about your thoughts and feelings with your partner, family members and other supportive loved ones.
- Join a pregnancy/postpartum support group for other parents or couples.
- Try not to make big changes in your life (like moving to a new place or taking a new job) right away. Wait a few months.
- Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Helpful information and resources available to support you and your family:
- Postpartum Support International, 1-800-944-4773
- Postpartum Education for Parents, 1-805-967-7636
- National Women’s Health Information Center, 1-800-994-9662
- National Postpartum Depression Hotline, 1-800-PPD-MOMS
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services free booklet on depression during and after pregnancy