Understanding Perinatal Mental Health: Recognizing Risks and Finding Help
You know someone who’s experienced a perinatal mental health condition. It sounds like a big
assumption, but I’ll stand by it.
One in five women experience a mental health condition during the perinatal period, so, chances are you know someone who’s lived through it.
What is a PMAD?
PMAD (perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, aka perinatal mental health condition or perinatal
mental health disorder) is the all-encompassing term for mental health issues that occur from
conception through the postpartum period. This includes women struggling to conceive and
those up to 12 months postpartum.
The disorders under this umbrella term include; pregnancy/postpartum depression, perinatal
anxiety, perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum PTSD, and substance use
It’s one of the biggest risks we face as pregnant and postpartum moms, but most women never
receive the help they need when experiencing a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.
75% of women who screen at risk never receive treatment.
Recognizing the Risks
Knowing your risk factors for a perinatal mental health condition can dramatically improve the
likelihood of finding the right help. If you know you might develop a PMAD, you can prepare for
it by discussing risks with your doctor, connecting with a therapist and helping your support
system help you.
If you’re someone with a history of mental health challenges, have a family history of mental
health challenges are experiencing major life changes during the perinatal period (a move,
relationship change or other major transition) or are a woman of color, you may be more likely
to experience a PMAD.
But risks do not mean you will develop a PMAD. In the same way not having risks doesn’t mean
you won’t experience one. Risks are information.
Just In Case
Because of that, Moms Mental Health Initiative, a local nonprofit organization that helps moms
navigate perinatal mood and anxiety disorders by providing peer support, resource brokering
and education encourages every parent to learn about and plan for a possible mental health
setback during pregnancy or postpartum.
“With the right help, you will feel better,” said Sarah Ornst Bloomquist, the organization’s Co-
Founder and Executive Director. She emphasizes the importance of the right help.
“The perinatal period is a very unique time period with an enormous amount of mental and
physical changes for a birthing person,” Bloomquist explained. “Uninformed providers can do
more harm, we’ve seen it happen.”
Moms Mental Health Initiative offers a discussion guide to help families discuss risk factors,
possible signs or symptoms and ideal support options if a mom does develop a PMAD.
There is Hope, There is Help
Bloomquist recommends connecting with a therapist and your medical team before you have
your baby. You may not develop a PMAD, but it’s easier to get the help you need when you
know where to turn.
“PMADs can make it difficult to ask for help. We want moms to have an informed and
compassionate support system so it’s easy to get help and keep hopeful that they are not alone
and they will feel better,” she explained.
If you think you might have a perinatal mental health condition, it’s always best to speak with
your medical team, who may have recommendations for mental health support. Moms Mental
Health Initiative can also help moms in the Madison and Southeast Wisconsin areas connect
with their list of vetted perinatal mental health providers based on your insurance and
“If you’re going through this, you are not alone,” said Bloomquist.
Learn more about Moms Mental Health Initiative: www.momsmentalhealthmke.org
This article was written by Casey White of Moms Mental Health Initiative.