Maternal Mental Health
Whether you’re a first time mom or you just had your fourth baby, you’ve found yourself on this page because you have a nagging feeling that being a mom just shouldn’t feel SO. DAMN. HARD.
Being a mom is hard—there’s no doubt about that. And while you know no mom sails through motherhood unscathed, you’re unsure if the feelings you’re having constitute a normal amount of stress/frustration/exhaustion/sadness, or if you’re getting to the point where you need more support.
You know yourself best. If you don’t feel like yourself and you or your partner are worried about how you feel, reach out for help. Any persistent feelings of irritation, anger, sadness, or worry that last beyond the first 2-3 weeks are a good reason to seek help.
I know you’re short on sleep and time, so it’s my hope that this page will simplify things for you.
Let’s get a few facts straight:
- Postpartum Depression is the most common medical complication of childbirth
- 1 in 7 Moms and 1 in 10 Dads suffer from postpartum depression.
- Symptoms can develop anytime from pregnancy up until your baby’s 1st birthday.
- You didn’t do anything wrong to cause yourself to feel the way you are feeling.
While Postpartum Depression, or PPD, is becoming more and more well-known, the term does not adequately convey the fact that there are several other mental health disorders that can effect a new mother. For this reason, the term Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADS) is being used.
There are several other forms of mental health issues that women can experience:*
*The following information comes from postpartum.net
Depression during Pregnancy and Postpartum
Symptoms differ for everyone and might include:
- feelings of anger or irritability
- lack of interest in the baby
- having a hard time bonding with your baby
- appetite and sleep disturbances (while all new moms have to attend to a newborn’s needs at night, having sleep disturbance even when baby is also asleep can be cause for concern)
- crying and sadness
- feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
- loss of interest or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
- thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in the year after having baby, you might be experiencing postpartum depression. PPD is a curable condition that can be helped with a therapist trained in maternal mental health.
Anxiety during Pregnancy and Postpartum
Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety either by itself or in addition to depression.
Symptoms can include:
- constant worry
- feeling that something bad is going to happen
- racing thoughts
- disturbances of sleep and/or appetite
- inability to sit still
- physical symptoms like dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
If you’re experiencing anxiety during pregnancy or in the postpartum period, I want you to know that you are not to blame and didn’t do anything to cause this. The anxiety is temporary and treatable by a therapist trained in maternal mental health.
Pregnancy or Postpartum OCD
Out of all the perinatal disorders, Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed.
It is estimated that 3-5% of new moms (and some new dads) will experience these symptoms.
The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come “out of the blue.”
Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional, and have very low risk of being acted upon. It is far more likely that the parent with this symptom takes steps to avoid triggers and avoid what they fear is potential harm to the baby.
Symptoms of perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive symptoms can include:
- Obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced before.
- Compulsions, where the mom may do certain things over and over again to reduce her fears and obsessions. This may include things like needing to clean constantly, check things many times, count or reorder things.
- A sense of horror about the obsessions
- Fear of being left alone with the infant
- Hypervigilance in protecting the infant
Moms with postpartum OCD know that their thoughts are bizarre and are very unlikely to ever act on them.
Approximately 9% of women experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum.
These traumas could include:
- Prolapsed cord
- Unplanned C-section
- Use of vacuum extractor or forceps to deliver the baby
- Baby going to NICU
- Feelings of powerlessness, poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during the delivery
- Women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse, are also at a higher risk for experiencing postpartum PTSD
- Women who have experienced a severe physical complication or injury related to pregnancy or childbirth, such as severe postpartum hemorrhage, unexpected hysterectomy, severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, perineal trauma (3rd or 4th degree tear), or cardiac disease
Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include:
- Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (which in this case may have been the childbirth itself)
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places, and details of the event
- Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response)
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
- Bipolar Mood Disorders
- Postpartum Psychosis
Nursing mamas and babies are always welcome.