Women’s Maternal Mental Health Disorders are NOT one size fits all.
Written by: Synergy eTherapy Staff Writer
The paint is up. Diapers are bought. Clothes and blankets are washed.
Months of anticipation are almost behind you, and you can’t WAIT to finally meet your little one! And then, BAM! Literally overnight, instant motherhood. You are now responsible for a new tiny human, who seems to rely solely on you. Juggling bottle/breastfeeding and new schedules and visitors and sleep deprivation. Throw in all… the… hormones, and its a wonder that only 13% of new mothers suffer from some kind of maternal mental health disorder. (http://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/maternal_mental_health/en/)
Now you’re at home, and the novelty of birth and the excitement of pregnancy have worn off. You’re looking down at this new life you just brought into the world and you know, something isn’t right- call it your first stab at maternal instinct. The things you are feeling can’t be blamed by hormones. Most people close to you will say its “baby blues” or “postpartum depression”.
But there is something important to note; not all feelings and emotions fit into one particular “box”, and Maternal Mental Health disorders aren’t one size fits all.
I began to feel even more isolated and alone by not being able to compartmentalize what exactly I was feeling…
“As I googled postpartum depression and read off the symptoms I felt more and more guilty for the things I was feeling, because I felt they were unexplainable” Cara, a mom, from Florida told us. “I began to feel even more isolated and alone by not being able to compartmentalize what exactly I was feeling. I tried to hide my thoughts and feelings because I wasn’t sure what exactly they meant because I wasn’t necessarily feeling depressed”.
While 1 in 7 women develop Postpartum Depression, (http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.aspx), there is a wide array of disorders linked to women who have recently given birth.
Lets start with the most generally perceived maternal mental health disorder; Postpartum Depression, which often times can be confused with “baby blues” at first (more on that a little later). But PPD is a much more severe and long-lasting form of depression, and is even linked to 20% of all postpartum suicides in women. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/isnt-what-i-expected/201210/postpartum-suicide-0)
Symptoms of PPD include:
severe mood swings
difficulty bonding with your baby
withdrawing from family and friends
loss of appetite/overeating
reduced interest in in activities that used to bring joy
fear you are not a good mother
inability to make decisions
thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
“Baby Blues”, is the least “severe” and most common form of maternal mental health disorder. Stephanie, a mother of 1 from Ohio says, “I actually missed being pregnant. I felt unprepared for motherhood even after months of physical and mental preparation and excitement”, she told us. “After returning home from the hospital I was overwhelmed and cried a lot. I was relieved after about a week my symptoms seemed to dissipate, and I was able to tackle my responsibilities as a new mom head on.”
Approximately 70-80% of new moms experience some form of “postpartum baby blues” after childbirth (americanpregnacy.org). Mood swings, crying spells, sadness and feeling overwhelmed can all be symptoms of baby blues. The main distinction between baby blues and PPD is the severity in which these symptoms are felt, and the duration in which they last. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery, and may last only up to two weeks, while PPD symptoms can be felt for months after delivery.
Postpartum Anxiety Disorder
And then there is Tracy, mom of 3, who suffered from postpartum depression with her oldest child; “I knew I wasn’t depressed, but I couldn’t stop obsessing over the baby. I would lie awake at night just staring at the monitor waiting for her to move so I would know she was alive.”
Tracy suffered from Postpartum Anxiety Disorder (PPA). Unlike PPD which can cause mothers to experience extreme sadness or even disinterest in their newborn, PPA symptoms manifest themselves mainly in the form of worry and sometimes even irrational fear. A “cousin” to PPD, PPA affects 10% of new moms, according to the American Pregnancy Association. “It was debilitating. I couldn’t focus on everyday tasks because the irrational worry and fear took over my life.”
While there are other disorders associated with postpartum women, such as Postpartum psychosis, they are very rare, affecting only 1-2 out of 1,000 new mothers (everydayhealth.com).
Now what do you do?
So you have recognized one of these disorders in yourself or a loved one…now what? Here are a few tips that may help someone suffering from Maternal Mental Health disorders cope:
Learn to bond with the baby – it is crucial as bonding releasing endorphins which will not only make you happier, but will make you feel more confident as a mother. There are many resources online for examples on how to effectively do this. (Here is one: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/bonding-with-baby-attachment-ppd).
Lean on others for help and support – do not be afraid to reach out for help with household chores, errands and other seemingly simple tasks. Even if friends or family cannot help, there are many types of caregivers that can come to your home and are trained and paid to be helpful for you and your baby.
Take care of and find moments for yourself – Of course physically, but mentally too. This can seem like an impossible task, but even small things like taking a shower or watching a movie while the baby sleeps can help you feel “normal” again.
Synergy E-Therapy via tele-mental health means is here to support busy new moms and dads who may find it hard to schedule mental and emotional care. You don’t have to leave your home to have access to high-quality treatment from your home by phone or video. Click HERE to learn more about our online therapy services.
To help spread awareness, and erase the stigma that can be associated with these disorders, Synergy E-therapy is proud to partner with TheBlueDotProject.org, and participate in Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, which includes MMH Day on May 2nd. A week of social media challenges and calls to action to inspire and raise awareness of these all too common disorders in women.
Dr. Lisa is a Licensed Psychologist (licensed in MN, WI, and NY) and the founder of Synergy eTherapy.
To schedule your FREE consultation with any Synergy eTherapist, please click HERE.