Maternal Mental Health
(Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period)
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 damn near 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 is just what it sounds like. It is the mental health of moms and moms-to-be. During pregnancy and the postpartum period, it is common for moms and moms-to-be to experience some form of depression, anxiety. and other mental health related concerns. A lot of times, this is attributed to the hormonal changes that women experience during the perinatal period (pregnancy and postpartum). A common term that is shared shortly after the baby is born is "Baby Blues". The baby blues refer to depressive like symptoms that moms experience shortly after birth and they can last up to two week postpartum. While a majority of maternal mental health changes are common, there are some that would need more attention and possibly intervention such as therapy or medication.
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.
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
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.
For more information on Perinatal Mental Health, click here to view a brochure from Postpartum Support International.