Maternal Mental Health
(Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period)
As a mental health clinician specializing in maternal mental health, I am dedicated to providing compassionate and comprehensive support for women navigating the unique challenges of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Having 3 kids of my own, I truly understand the roller coaster of emotions that come along with being pregnant and adjusting to the new life during the postpartum period. It can be overwhelming at times and finding ways to ground yourself could feel impossible.
I also know firsthand the many ups and downs of experiencing a traumatic birth experience and having to embrace the NICU journey due to a child being born extremely premature. The emotions and stressful thoughts that come along with that journey can be crippling and difficult to navigate.
But with the right therapist and tons of support, I can honestly say, there is a good chance that you can push through it all.
So what is Maternal Mental Health?
Maternal mental health encompasses a broad spectrum of emotional and psychological experiences that arise during this transformative period. Whether you are a first-time mother or have experienced motherhood before, prioritizing your mental well-being is essential for both your happiness and the well-being of your child.
When something more can be going on...
Although pregnancy and childbirth are both joyous occasions for some, the dramatic changes that accompany them can bring undesirable emotions. These emotions can include sadness, anxiety, irritability and feeling overwhelmed which are mostly normal during the perinatal period. However, when those emotions begin to interfere with parents bonding or developing a relationship with their new baby, the emotions could stem from a set of treatable and temporary conditions called Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Five common PMADs are: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders encompass a range of mental health conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and the postpartum period. These disorders include:
Postpartum Depression (PPD): PPD is the most common perinatal mood disorder, affecting up to one in five women following childbirth. Symptoms of PPD can include persistent sadness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, changes in appetite or sleep, and difficulty connecting with your baby.
Postpartum Anxiety Disorder (PPA): PPA is characterized by excessive worry, fear, and irritability, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as racing heart, shortness of breath, and muscle tension.
Perinatal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Perinatal OCD involves intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors related to pregnancy, childbirth, or infant care.
Postpartum Psychosis: A rare but severe condition, postpartum psychosis involves a loss of contact with reality, hallucinations, and delusions.
While PMADs typically affect mothers, fathers can also experience PMAD symptoms during the perinatal period. PMAD symptoms can be triggered by changes couple experience such as:
Becoming New Parents
Disrupted Sleep Patterns
Stretched Work/Life Balance and more.
Other factors that contribute to the risk of experiencing a PMAD include biological (heredity), psychological (personal history) and social/environmental (culture) factors.
Benefits of Therapy for Perinatal Mental Health
Therapy is an invaluable tool for addressing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Through a supportive and confidential therapeutic relationship, you can gain a deeper understanding of your emotions, develop coping mechanisms, and learn effective strategies for managing your symptoms. Therapy can also help you:
Identify and address underlying triggers that may be contributing to your distress.
Develop healthy coping skills for managing stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions.
Strengthen your support system by building connections with other mothers and community resources.
Improve your overall well-being and enhance your ability to care for yourself and your baby.
Parenthood can be a stressful adjustment for some mothers and fathers which is why having a licensed professional to help you process through the perinatal period can be highly beneficial.
Therapy provides a warm, nurturing and empathetic environment where mothers and fathers can process distressing emotions in a safe, comfortable place. Therapy provides emotional support to parents while exploring factors and triggers that are contributing to PMAD symptoms. Coping skills such as relaxation techniques and healthy sleeping skills are a few of the areas covered in therapy.
Therapy is also helpful for parents who have experienced heartbreaking loss such as a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Seeking Professional Support
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, please reach out for professional help. Seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Early intervention can make a significant difference in your recovery and overall well-being. Remember, you are not alone. Maternal mental health concerns are common, and there is help available. With the right support, you can navigate the challenges of motherhood with resilience and joy.
For more information on Perinatal Mental Health, click here to view a brochure from Postpartum Support International.