It’s May again! Spring is in the air, flowers are blooming, the grass is green and the weather is warm! What’s also in May? Well, Mother’s Day of course! And while we certainly don’t want to take away from celebrating all our wonderful mothers, we do want to also emphasize that May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month. So to honor all the fabulous women and mothers in your life, read on!
For many mothers, motherhood is the hardest and most enjoyable part of our lives. Motherhood can be described with such a huge range of words; from exhausting to joyous, overwhelming to perfect. Mothers are selfless, supportive, attentive, valuable and a myriad of other things. They are also, most of all, human.
National Maternal Depression Awareness Month strives to destigmatize maternal mental health disorders. Despite maternal mental health issues being the most common complication of childbirth, less than 15% of women today receive mental health treatment.
What exactly are maternal mental health disorders?
You’ve probably heard of postpartum depression. How about prenatal depression? Both are maternal mental health disorders, or anxiety and/or depression disorders that can occur during pregnancy or after, during the postpartum period (from the moment a mother has given birth, up to about six weeks.) Women can experience maternal mental health disorders such as the common experience of “baby blues” as well as the more severe but still common experience of Postpartum Psychosis.
According to postpartum.net, “ as many as 1 in 5 women experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.”
What are signs of postpartum depression or other maternal mental health disorders?
Addressing maternal mental health disorders as quickly as possible, and in a culturally sensitive way, is the best way to help ourselves and those we care for. While many of us know that anxiety and fatigue is not unusual right after giving birth, the following can be key indicators of a maternal mental health disorder:
- Feelings of anger or irritability around others
- Feelings of shame, guilt or “imposter-syndrome”
- Feelings of regret
- Difficulty eating or sleeping
- Difficulty bonding with your new baby
- Disinterest in your child
- Thoughts of self harm or suicide
- Thoughts of harming your child
What can I do if I’m struggling with maternal depression or anxiety?
First of all, breathe. The whole point of this article, and of National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, is to help people realize that you and those you love are not alone and that there are resources out there for you (and that includes us!)
Although mothers may feel guilty about having maternal depression or anxiety (again, normal,) it’s incredibly important to first reach out for help. Tell your partner, a family member, friend, therapist or your healthcare provider. This support system can help you realize that your sadness and anxiety is not a character flaw or a weakness, but a biological illness that is treatable and that will pass.
Secondly, manage your stress levels. This may be far easier said than done with a newborn on your hands, but do remember to monitor how things are affecting you. Too little sleep, food, or simply downtime can add up fast. Schedule in your own self-care time.
Lastly, although this is not an exhaustive list by far, consider therapy as a form of treatment for maternal depression and/or anxiety. Therapy will teach you coping mechanisms, as well as self-help tools that will serve you throughout the difficult moments in motherhood and beyond. A better quality of life for mothers only means a better quality of life for their children!
So remember, this May give the mothers in your life an extra hug, and if you or any one of your loved ones need help, you know where to find us.
Happy Mother’s Day,
Traini Counseling Group