Maternal Mental Health Month is an opportunity to discuss and share the importance of mental health wellness during the perinatal period. We continue to learn about the prevalence of mental health conditions impacting pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, with the most common being depression, anxiety and substance use disorders. According to the CDC, 1 in 8 women will experience postpartum depression and 50% of them will go untreated (research and data for gender diverse parents are lacking–as are resources to support them). Outcomes for untreated mental health conditions include problems with breastfeeding, poor attachment and bonding with baby and increased risk for childhood developmental delays. These are significant impacts for individuals, families and communities. We also know Black, Indigenous and parents of color are impacted at higher rates with even less access to care.
WHA’s behavioral health team supports our pregnant and postpartum patients impacted by mental health conditions. Often, they begin therapy with statements like “No one really tells you this part of being a mom,” or “I really didn’t think it would be this hard for this long.” They reflect feelings of shame, disappointment and embarrassment about their struggles. Expecting parents look forward to the joys and excitement of starting or growing their family and feel such let down when negative experiences like depression or anxiety take over. They compare what they are feeling to what their parents and friends told them it would be like or what they are seeing on social media. Questions like, “what is wrong with me?” or “what if I’m not a good parent?” are common.
Finding validation, acknowledgement and support for mental health struggles is no easy task. Access to integrated mental health care is essential during this vulnerable and stressful time. Recently a patient said “Therapy is like glasses for my brain,” which is a great way to summarize what it can mean for someone to get clarity and begin to feel better. WHA is committed to caring for the whole person during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Mental health care is not separate from perinatal care, it’s an essential and necessary part of adequately supporting expecting and new parents. Our work includes:
- Education for WHA staff and clinicians on maternal mental health
- Perinatal screening (such as Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale)
- Therapy with the WHA behavioral health team
- Referrals for medication management
- Resources for community support groups, home visiting programs and doulas
With appropriate interventions, impacts related to perinatal mental health conditions can be mitigated and, just as importantly, parents can find relief. Please join us by getting involved to raise awareness and understanding of maternal mental health issues. Learn more at World Maternal Mental Health Day and The Blue Dot Project.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues during or after pregnancy, help is available. Talk to your obstetric or pediatric care provider, or find help through one of these organizations: