Caring for Your Mental Health During and After Pregnancy
While pregnancy and childbirth is often a time of joy and celebration, for many the experience can also be a source of negative emotion. We often hear that we should self-monitor for symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety after our baby is born. What many of us may not realize is that emotional symptoms can begin long before delivery.
Roughly 20% of expectant mothers experience moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety. They are often told by others that their symptoms are due to hormonal changes, fatigue or “pregnancy brain.” Mothers often don’t realize that it can be helpful to acknowledge and address these concerns before their baby is born. Meeting with a perinatal mental health therapist can help guide you through this transitional period in your life.
Once your baby is born, how might you know if you’re experiencing common emotional changes during the early postpartum period (“baby blues”) or something more, such as perinatal depression or anxiety. Understanding the duration, intensity and frequency of symptoms can help determine whether it’s something temporary or longer lasting like perinatal or postpartum mood or anxiety disorder – also known as PMAD. Duration: When did you first notice emotional changes? For how long have you been feeling this way? Intensity: How bad does this feel? Frequency: How often are you feeling this way and how long does it last?
Being a new mom can lead to doubt about our abilities and feelings. If we have some awareness that it won’t be easy, that our life will be challenged by different priorities, then why are we so hard on ourselves? Most of us don’t realize how deeply motherhood can impact our mental health. We may have feelings and thoughts that we did not anticipate. Societal messaging suggests this time should be a joyous and beautiful journey. Motherhood has a way of bringing out: relationship issues, lack of confidence, perfectionism, unrealistic expectations, attachment issues, critical self-talk, reactiveness, and indecisiveness, to name a few. When these concerns come out, we may doubt our parenting abilities. You are not a failure — there is no such thing as a “perfect mother.”
Motherhood is not easy. There will be many twists and turns. The path is not always straight, and it may look different for all of us. There seems to be no escape from people telling us that we’re doing something “wrong” or not in the way they would be doing it. Mothers can be judged for things such as how and when we conceive, how and when we birth, how we feed, how we put our babies to sleep, if and how we bounced back, and if and when we return to work. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and ultimately impact our overall mental health.
Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders impact 1 out of 7 women, and 1 out of 10 partners. You don’t need to experience this alone. Reach out to aid with self-care, boundary setting, emotional regulation, and unpacking this experience and journey.
If this resonates with you, don’t hesitate to reach out to our clinic to book an appointment with Josie Marando, our resident perinatal mental health specialist.