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What is PPA and PPD in Pregnancy?

Emily Turinas

4 min read

Jun 27



Becoming a parent is often depicted as one of life's most joyous milestones, filled with moments of unparalleled happiness and love. However, the reality of parenthood can be more complex, as in much much more complex. And then for some, postpartum might include navigating the challenging waters of Perinatal Anxiety (PPA) and Postpartum Depression (PPD). Understanding these conditions is crucial not only for those who may be experiencing them but also for the friends, family, and professionals supporting new parents.

what is ppa and ppd

What is Perinatal Anxiety (PPA)?

Perinatal Anxiety refers to the experience of anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Unlike the typical worries of parenthood, PPA involves excessive, persistent, and often debilitating anxiety that can interfere with daily functioning. Symptoms of PPA do not always look like typical anxiety and can include:

  • Constant Worry: Intense and overwhelming fears about the baby's health, safety, or well-being.

  • Restlessness and Irritability: Feeling on edge, agitated, or unable to relax.

  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling or staying asleep, even when the baby is sleeping.

  • Physical Symptoms: Heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, or gastrointestinal issues.

  • Intrusive Thoughts: Unwanted, distressing thoughts about harm coming to the baby or oneself.

What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

Postpartum Depression is a mood disorder that can affect both mothers and fathers after the birth of a child. It goes beyond the "baby blues," which are common and typically resolve within two weeks postpartum. PPD can last much longer and has more severe symptoms. Like PPA, PPD might look different than your typically depression and include:

  • Persistent Sadness: A deep and unshakeable sadness or emptiness.

  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable, including bonding with the baby.

  • Feelings of Hopelessness or Worthlessness: Intense feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy as a parent.

  • Changes in Appetite and Sleep: Eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia.

  • Difficulty Bonding with the Baby: Feeling detached or uninterested in the baby.

  • Thoughts of Self-Harm or Harm to the Baby: In severe cases, experiencing thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby.

Recognizing the Overlap

While PPA and PPD are distinct conditions, they can co-occur, and their symptoms may overlap. It’s not uncommon for someone to experience both anxiety and depression simultaneously, which can compound the emotional challenges faced during the perinatal period.

Signs You Need Professional Help

Recognizing when it's time to seek professional help is crucial for recovery. Here are some signs that indicate you should reach out to a healthcare provider:

  • Persistent Symptoms: If symptoms of anxiety or depression persist beyond two weeks and show no signs of improving.

  • Interference with Daily Life: If the symptoms are interfering with your ability to care for yourself, your baby, or perform daily tasks.

  • Inability to Bond with Your Baby: If you feel detached from your baby or struggle to feel any connection.

  • Thoughts of Self-Harm or Harm to the Baby: If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby, it is critical to seek immediate help.

  • Extreme Mood Swings: If you experience severe mood swings that disrupt your daily functioning.

  • Isolation: If you are withdrawing from social interactions and support systems.

Seeking Help: You Are Not Alone

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of PPA or PPD, it's essential to seek help. These conditions are treatable, and early intervention can significantly improve outcomes. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Talk to a Healthcare Provider: Share your feelings and symptoms with your obstetrician, midwife, or primary care doctor. Let them know you would like a referral or help getting more recourses.

  • Therapy: Therapy has been shown to be highly effective. Look for a therapist who specializes in perinatal mental health, especially one who has advanced training in perinatal mental health.

  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges can provide comfort and understanding. Look for online groups if it seems overwhelming to leave the house, or find one that is close by and lets you bring your baby.

  • Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary and can be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Even if you are breastfeeding (or pregnant) there are options out there that can still be used.

  • Self-Care: Prioritizing rest, nutrition, and activities that promote relaxation and well-being.

Supporting a Loved One with PPA or PPD

If you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone experiencing PPA or PPD, your support can make a significant difference. Here are a few ways to help:

  • Be There: Offer a listening ear and provide emotional support without judgment.

  • Encourage Professional Help: Gently encourage seeking help from healthcare professionals.

  • Offer Practical Support: Help with baby care, household tasks, or arranging breaks for the parent to rest.

  • Educate Yourself: Understanding PPA and PPD can help you better support your loved one.

PPA and PPD are serious conditions that can affect anyone during the perinatal period. Recognizing the signs and seeking help is crucial for recovery and well-being. Remember, experiencing anxiety or depression as a new parent does not reflect your abilities or worthiness as a parent. With the right support and treatment, it is possible to navigate these challenges and find joy in parenthood.

If you are interested in gaining professional support during your postpartum journey, see if Emily Turinas PhD is a good fit for you. She is a perinatal psychologist who has advanced training in perinatal mental health and specializes in therapy for new moms & dads, those on a fertility journey, and pregnant mamas in Austin, Texas & Denver, Colorado. Schedule a free consultation today to see how Dr. Turinas could help you build clarity and direction in the chaos of parenthood.

Emily Turinas

4 min read

Jun 27





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Emily Turinas PhD


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