Postpartum/Maternal Mental Health
Written by: Bridgette Koukos, MA, LCPC, NCC
May 4th is World Postpartum/Maternal Mental Health Day; therefore, I felt it is important to shed light on this area. 1 in 5 new mothers and 1 in 3 mother's of color will experience to some symptoms of Perinatal Anxiety or Depression. It is also important to mention that approximately 10% of fathers struggle with postpartum symptoms as well.
To start I will briefly explain what Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Postpartum Anxiety look like. Anxiety is something that causes avoidance as it provokes a flight response. When you become anxious you may notice that your heart begins to race, your muscles tense, you may feel sweaty and/or faint. PPD is sometimes mistaken for what people call the “baby blues.” However, the symptoms for PPD are more intense, last much longer, and may interfere with a parents ability to care for their baby. PPD symptoms can present during pregnancy, but most often occur within the first couple of months after birth. Some symptoms of PPD include but, are not limited to: depressed mood, mood swings, withdrawing from family and friends, thoughts of harming oneself, difficulty bonding with your baby, intense irritability, and/or intense anger/agitation.
As I mentioned above, symptoms can appear at any point during pregnancy as well as up to the first year after childbirth. An Acronym that might be helpful to remember in combating and coping with Postpartum Anxiety and Depression is SNOWBALL. I know, you're probably thinking what?!, But hang with me here, as this word can be important to remember when taking care of maternal mental health.
Sleep- It is important that new moms get enough rest. There are a multitude of negative consequences associated with not getting enough sleep, some of which include difficulty thinking clearly and low distress tolerance.
Nutrition - Consuming foods that are not only healthy but that will also promote a speedy recovery is extremely important, and more so if breastfeeding.
Omega 3 - Research has shown that consuming fish oils may help reduce anxiety and depression in new moms.
Walking - Getting out for a short walk can be incredibly beneficial.
Baby Breaks - It important to make sure that new parents take time away from baby if at all possible. Whether it be a trip solo or with our partners to go grocery shopping, taking time to visit with family or friends, or engaging in self-care activities such as getting hair or nails done.
Adult Time - Making sure we pencil in quality time with other adults can be a protective activity.
Liquids - It is important to make sure we are drinking enough water daily. This is especially true if a new mom is breastfeeding, as this will help compensate for the water their body's needs in order to create breastmilk.
Laughter - It is important to remember that we need to find humor in situations and cut yourself a break.