We’ve all seen the videos on social media and television; new moms staring at the baby in their arms with a giant smile plastered across their face. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” they say. “I’ve never been so in love!” they beam. We have been programmed to believe that this is everyone’s reality. However for many, this isn’t the case.
Up to 85% of mothers will experience something called Baby Blues. This isn’t a mental health diagnosis per se, but is characterized by feelings of mild anxiety, slight depression, crying. This is almost always gone by two weeks postpartum and doesn’t interfere with daily functioning. These feelings also aren’t continuously present.
When feelings are more severe and get in the mother’s way of caring for herself and/or her baby, a closer look is warranted. Perinatal Mood Anxiety Disorders is an umbrella term for conditions that are impacting mood during pregnancy and/or postpartum. Things like Anxiety, Depression, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Psychosis fall under this category. While these seem like scary diagnoses, they are all quite treatable with the right help.
Midwives and Obstetricians should be screening for mental health complications, though this doesn’t always happen. Even when it does, many moms report that their provider didn’t follow up after they completed the screening tool.
The one question I always ask clients who are pregnant or postpartum is, “Do you feel like yourself?” For those experiencing mild symptoms, such as those associated with Baby Blues, the answer tends to be Yes. They might add that they have had some crying spells, or moments of overwhelm, but generally, they recognize themselves.
For someone suffering more deeply, The answers tend to be things like “I don’t know who I am anymore,” “I cry all the time,” “I feel like I’ve lost my identity,” or even “my partner says I’m just not myself.” Sometimes it’s easier for those who love us to notice changes before we can see them in ourselves.
Specific things to look for that might indicate help is needed (this is not a complete list):
-over or under eating
-feeling worthless, excessive guilt
-avoiding leaving the house
-difficulty sleeping (even when given the chance)
While extremely unlikely, there are situations that call for immediate professional help. If you notice any of the following in yourself or someone you love, call 911 or 988 IMMEDIATELY.
-hyperactive/decreased need for sleep
-severe mood swings
The stigma around mental health is high. The stigma around maternal mental health is higher. Don’t let that stop you from receiving the help that is available. Mental health challenges don’t need to keep you from enjoying your baby. The most common comment I hear from mothers is that they wish they had gotten help sooner.
For additional information on mental health complications during pregnancy/postpartum visit Postpartum.net