Moms are the strongest people we know...
But even moms need support.
Becoming a mom can be an exciting and joyful time. For some it can also be a stressful time. Whether you are pregnant or planning to adopt, welcoming a new child into the family can bring with it unforeseen challenges and stress.
Even the most prepared will have ups and downs as they navigate the stages of pregnancy, adoption, childbirth, and adjusting to life with a new child. This is normal and to be expected.
But when the newness becomes overwhelming, it can be helpful to reach out to a therapist who can help you feel happy and healthy to better enjoy this time with your child.
Many are aware of the emotional effects that can occur after giving birth. Often termed the “baby blues,” it affects up to 80% of new moms. Symptoms include crying and feeling overwhelmed with motherhood, as well as being uncertain. However, baby blues lasts no more than two weeks after birth. If these symptoms are persistent during pregnancy, or more than two weeks after giving birth, it may be perinatal depression or anxiety. Perinatal refers to the time during pregnancy and the one year that follows birth.
MEET TEEA FULLEN-BARNES,
OUR PERINATAL SPECIALIST IN MIDDLETOWN, KY
Teea specializes in perinatal counseling, and especially working with the black/BIPOC community.
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Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Women and birthing people who experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD) have unique needs and risks that can be misunderstood by those without specialized training. For example, feeling ambivalent about your baby or having scary thoughts or images related to your baby may be misinterpreted as thoughts of harming your baby.
A trained perinatal therapist will recognize these feelings and thoughts and will understand that you have no desire or intention of harming your baby. Then, they will provide the necessary treatment to overcome these thoughts. Perinatal therapists can also connect you to additional support such as mom’s groups, psychiatrists, lactation consultants, and perinatal programs specifically designed for your needs.
While perinatal mood disorders can be overwhelming and even frightening for both the pregnant/new moms involved and for their loved ones/partners, the good news is that these concerns are highly treatable with very successful outcomes.
Family and social support combined with mental health care and potentially medication, create a potent and holistic approach to healing that can yield fantastic results. What is most important is that all birthing people are activated to take that first step towards healing by asking for help.
Women experiencing untreated anxiety, bipolar, depression and other mental health struggles are more likely to experience long-term negative impacts over the course of their pregnancy and birth.
New parents experiencing undiagnosed and untreated psychiatric disorders, such as depression, are a risk factor for suicide in new mothers, a leading cause of maternal mortality. If left untreated, postpartum psychosis can even lead to an increased risk of infanticide.
While it can be difficult to find time to attune to your own needs when you have to take care of a baby or child, it's still important to keep in touch with yourself. If left untreated, or feelings of depression and dysthymia last for at least two years, a mother's quality of life will significantly decrease.
Perinatal Mental Health and the BIPOC Community
Though hormonal changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period can cause mood disorders or anxiety to surface, Maternal Mental Health (MMH) conditions are not exclusively driven by neurochemical causes; other key factors, including racism and low socioeconomic status, can increase the risk and severity.
Centuries-long systemic racism, discrimination, and social inequities have inflicted multi-generational trauma on Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) in this country. In addition, structural racism and discrimination have created barriers to affordable and culturally appropriate mental health care. While this racial trauma can contribute to the development of mental health conditions, research and disaggregated data on BIPOC communities’ mental health prior to becoming pregnant is needed. These external stressors can have significant effects on pregnancy, maternal health, and a child's development.
During national crises, pregnant women have significantly higher rates of mood disorders than the general population. In addition, racism and other structural disadvantages result in people of color being disproportionately affected by national crises, which also exacerbates MMH conditions among pregnant and birthing people of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately harmed the health and economic well-being of Black and Latinx communities, who have suffered a higher risk of hospitalization and death due to the disease. An important driver of these inequities is that people of color are more likely to be essential workers in industries that are not amenable to working from home, putting them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Moreover, communities of color are more likely to face food insecurity, unstable housing, and loss of income and health insurance.
The stress of these additional burdens placed on pregnant and birthing people of color has caused symptoms of MMH conditions to skyrocket. That is why it is so important to focus on the needs of these BIPOC individuals, giving them the time, space, and understanding to meet their needs.
Motherhood isn't all you are.
When a new baby comes into your life, it's easy to get swept up in all the newness. New experiences, new struggles, new love and connection. It can be magical.
For many, it can be difficult to maintain an identity that is not centered around your child and who you are as a parent. However, maintaining a sense of yourself as a separate entity which also requires prioritization and care is incredibly valuable for new moms and other birthing individuals.
Let us chat about ways you can reconnect with yourself. We could start by talking about how you can adjust your routine to take care of yourself, set small goals, schedule alone time, communicate with your partner or other caregivers, and stop comparing yourself to others.
Remember, above all else, give yourself space and time to breathe. You were never meant to do and carry everything. Offer yourself some grace and if you need encouragement about that, connect with us!
What about "mom-guilt?"
We all know that "mom guilt" is very real and can be a very powerful emotion. We all want to do the very best for our children that we possibly can, and when we fall short of our own best intentions and expectations for ourselves, that disappointment can be a powerful source of guilt and frustration.
Welcoming a baby into your life is a huge adjustment and can seemingly double your to-do list overnight. And when some of these items don’t get done (and they won’t), you may feel inadequate or guilty.
These feelings are normal, and all new parents experience them from time to time. But if your mom guilt is becoming overwhelming and you're struggling to cope with your guilty feelings, there are strategies that may help. We'd love to connect with you about them!