May is Maternal Mental Health Month

New and expectant mothers (parents) experience a variety of changes – hormonal changes, physical changes, changes in lifestyle, changes in sleep patterns and changes to the daily routine. Pregnancy and birth can be an exciting time and it may also bring about unexpected mental health concerns. Let’s face it – bringing forth new life is stressful. The love for the newborn does not erase the sleep deprivation, isolation, added responsibilities and the inability to partake in self-care. Talk about an emotional roller coaster that seems never-ending! Unlike a roller coaster at the amusement park, this ride can last well after the first year following birth.

“Maternal mental health disorders typically occur in what is called the perinatal period. This includes the prenatal period, or time that a woman is pregnant, and the postpartum period, which is the first year after the baby has been born.”

Mental Health America

In this space we place mental health on the same platform as physical health. If one has concerns related to the heart the next step may include a visit to the Primary Care Physician to ask questions. One may even be referred to a Cardiologist, a Physician that specializes in matters related to the heart. There is no stigma associated with scheduling an appointment, attending multiple appointments, asking questions and following instructions as directed by the Physician. Mental health should work in a similar manner. What we know is that many suffer in silence due to the negative stigma associated with mental health. Not knowing where to turn for support while pregnant and fear of negative consequences if mental health challenges are disclosed during the postpartum period are factors that keep some silent.

“1 in 7 moms suffer from postpartum depression.”

Postpartum Support International (PSI)

It is totally normal to be tearful for no reason, irritable, impatient or sad during pregnancy and in the weeks following birth. This is commonly known as the “baby blues.” It usually tapers off as one starts to adjust to the changes that have taken place. If you believe that you may be suffering from more than the “baby blues” it is imperative that you reach out to a Licensed Mental Health Professional with a specialization in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) to assist with processing feelings. Concerns about mental health during pregnancy and following birth are serious matters that cannot be ignored. Visit Postpartum Support International (PSI) to search for a knowledgeable provider in your area.

By no means is this a comprehensive list. Utilize it to help yourself or someone that you know. Know the signs. Have a conversation.

I am three years into my motherhood journey and I worked with a fabulous Doula and an amazing team of Midwives to birth my daughter. At the start of each prenatal appointment I was given Beck’s Depression Inventory to complete. Moments later my responses were discussed in detail. I was also given the depression inventory to complete at each postpartum follow-up appointment. During my one month postpartum follow-up I vividly recall crying as I completed the depression inventory. Of course I was very familiar with the screening tool and well versed in mental health matters. I was also an exhausted new mother who struggled to put words to my feelings. In that moment it was all that mattered.

Maternity leave forced me to put my professional life on hold for three months. Work was irrelevant and the focus was adjusting to my new normal. I had no clue what motherhood would entail until I experienced it for myself. It was a breath of fresh air to have mental health normalized within the medical setting. My daughter’s Pediatrician, my Doula and Midwives made it routine to speak about mental health at each appointment. My sincere hope is that this standard of care is taking place in medical practices across the nation. Simply asking the question puts mental health on the same platform as every other concern that is addressed during prenatal / postpartum office visits. It is a freeing experience to be heard and I’m almost certain that those with similar experiences would agree.

I dedicate this post to a mother that I had the privilege of knowing long before maternal mental health and I would cross paths personally and professionally. She was a phenomenal individual and inspires all of the postpartum support that I provide in my practice. Back then I didn’t know; but I get it now. I understand. I wish she was here to read this. I look at her picture and with tears in my eyes I speak her name.

Until Next Time,

💙 Salimah

Peace, Love & Breastmilk

The Maziwa Tribe blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Content from Maziwa Tribe’s blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this blog is intended for general consumer understanding. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your family doctor or other medical professional to obtain medical advice.