If you’ve been following my blog for a while then you know how passionate I am about mental health in general but more specifically maternal mental health. Mothers are often overlooked as soon as they give birth. The perspective shifts almost immediately from adoring the expected mother to placing a laundry list of expectations on her. From being expected to snap back into her pre pregnancy form to immediately needing to have motherhood figured out, the expectations of motherhood can be extremely draining mentally.
In more recent years I’ve noticed that maternal mental health has been made a bit more of a priority in my experience. With the birth of my daughter this year I was set up with an afterbirth counselor that I could speak to about my mental well-being, something that definitely wasn’t offered to me in 2018 when I gave birth to my son. And although I think the general conversation around mental health has been much more open in recent years, the specifics around how badly mothers are suffering isn’t being talked about enough.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1 in 10 mothers suffer from mental health issues in developed countries like the United States. That number goes up to as many as 1 in 3 in developing countries.
But why is mental illness so prevalent among mothers? Some of the health factors seem to be social determinants that are gender specific according to WHO. On a broader scale these factors include “less valued social roles, intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy.” But some of the daily factors that affect the mental wellbeing of a mother can include Mom Guilt, Sleep Deprivation, Body Image, Caregiving, Parenting Without A Partner and Poor Work Life Balance.
What Are Some Signs To Look Out For?
Mental illness looks differently depending on the woman who is suffering from it. But some of the signs to look out for include feelings of unexplained anger, anxiety or fatigue. You may also begin to neglect your personal hygiene, health and the hygiene of your home. Some women experience intrusive thoughts that are negative, violent or fearful. These intrusive thoughts and unusual feelings may result in a lack of interest in your baby, inability to sleep, difficulty concentrating/making decisions, a loss of joy in activities that used to make you happy and most concerning, possibly hurting yourself or your child.
So What Can Be Done About This Crisis?
The first thing that women need to do is recognize the signs that they are suffering with a mental issue and seek help from a healthcare provider. We need to stop feeding into the Super Mom trope that is holding us back from asking for help. Be open and honest when someone asks if you’re okay. Fill out the postpartum surveys at your baby’s pediatrician appointments honestly so that help can be provided to you. The more we speak up about a topic the less it will be taboo and the quicker we can get to pushing Maternal Mental Health into the mental health conversation. Mental health should be a key component in perinatal and postpartum care and the sooner this becomes commonplace the better.
I understand that the conversation around mental health can be triggering. In addition to seeking help from your personal healthcare provider, if you are experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness please feel free to use the resources in the article linked below ♥️.