A Closer Look At: Maternal Mental Health
According to 2020Mom.org, “1 in 5 women on average suffer from maternal mental health disorders.” and “Less than 15% of women diagnosed with a maternal mental health disorder receive treatment.”
It is not uncommon to find a mom-shaming story blasted all over social media on a regular basis. I once heard a popular radio host tell a “feel-good” story about a man extending a helping hand to a new mom trying to fill out paperwork in a doctor’s waiting room while also trying to comfort her inconsolable baby only to find the woman ripped to shreds by people who would “never do that”. I only hope that mom took a nap and did not even see the horrible comments being slung in her direction.
Mental health professionals are seeing an increase in postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis and moms are feeling more isolated than ever despite our technology and ability to connect with one another increasing; the same cannot be said for our increase in ability to connect to services including therapy and med management.
I write this blog to shout out to all moms that they are not alone but also to offer some practical advice for friends, family and the community at large to support moms. Please note I do not address dads specifically in this list because they have their own unique needs and responsibilities within the spouse/dad role. I will share some practical suggestions on Paternal Mental Health Day.
Ask Mom how she is doing and hear her answer! Be a safe place for her to vent, cry, ask questions or talk about anything…especially if she wants and needs to talk about anything other than the baby.
Offer to help. Don’t wait for mom (or dad!) to ask. If you are not comfortable showing up with dinner and a helping hand then tell-ask when you can come over. “What day could I bring dinner and hold baby while you take care of you?”
Offer advice only when it is asked for. Your daughter/sister/friend/etc. is already feeling overwhelmed and is bombarded with messages of how other people are doing things and comparing themselves negatively to everyone else. Unless the advice is about loving herself and putting aside her own judgment; please keep it to yourself.
Provide only what advice is specifically asked for. If she asks what to do if baby won’t sleep on his/her back; that is not an invitation to tell her she should be breastfeeding or that you would use a different method of sleep training.
Keep questions and comments of how mom is feeding her baby to yourself. Do you know if Steve Jobs was breast or bottle fed? Probably not. Because it does not matter. Fed is best.
Make sure to tell her she is doing a good job or that you are proud of her. She needs to hear that. She is questioning everything about herself and her ability to maintain her sanity while keeping this tiny, beautiful baby clean, fed, happy and rested.
If you are concerned about mom’s symptoms of depression or anxiety; let her know it is OK to ask for help.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a maternal mental health disorder, please reach out to us by visiting our Getting Started page and filling out our New Client Information Form.
Other resources to check out:
National Maternal Mental Health Hotline 1-833-943-5746 (1-833-9-HELP4MOMS)
For Mental Health Emergencies, call or text #988. You can also chat with them online here: https://988lifeline.org/chat/