Maternal Mental Health Acronyms: A Primer

When it comes to health and science there tend to be a lot of acronyms floating around and maternal mental health is no exception. It can be confusing trying to navigate articles and information when you aren’t sure what the acronyms mean and it can also complicate the process of searching for information. So here it is, all in one place–a primer on maternal mental health acronyms!

Pacific Post Partum Support Society frequently uses the acronym PPD/A to refer to postpartum depression and anxiety. We use this often because this is the most common manifestation of maternal mental health issues that we see though we support women with a wide range of mental health struggles that are not limited to depression and anxiety. In other places you may also see the acronym PPD for postpartum depression. We prefer to use PPD/A because it’s extremely common for depression and anxiety to arise together and it’s important to highlight that depression is not the only symptom of postpartum illness.

In the UK the most common acronym is PND which stands for postnatal depression and may refer to depression alone or include a host of other symptoms including anxiety.

You may see the acronym PTSD in relation to postpartum issues. This stands for post-traumatic stress disorder and can be an aspect of the postpartum experience for some women who have had traumatic births or other traumas associated with pregnancy, delivery, and new motherhood.

PMD stands for perinatal mood disorder and is the term that is inclusive of a variety of  maternal mental health issues. PMD includes the entire gamut of possible issues in both the prenatal and postpartum periods  including anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder,  and postpartum psychosis. You may also see PMAD which stands for perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.

When looking for information on perinatal mood disorders you may run into acronyms that refer to disorders that can complicate postpartum depression and anxiety. For instance PMDD stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder and refers to severe mental and physical health issues that affect some women in the last half of their menstrual cycles, most commonly right before menstruation. PMDD can be a risk factor for postpartum mental health issues and can also be a complicating factor. You may also see the acronym PMS which stands for premenstrual syndrome and refers to a milder form of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. People are more likely to be familiar with PMS. We’ll be featuring an article on PMDD in August, so stay tuned!

There are some common terms that refer to paternal mental health issues as well. PPND refers to paternal postnatal depression. While the terminology tends to refer to paternal mental health its important to note that mental health issues can occur in any partner or close caregiver of a new mom as well as in adoptive parents. Mood disorders after the arrival of a child  are not limited to biological parents and are not gender specific. With any luck some more inclusive terminology will develop as awareness increases.

I hope this helps you navigate the wealth of information out there on maternal mental health. Knowing what to look for can help you to focus in on information that will be most helpful to you and your loved ones.

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