Supporting Maternal Mental Health

  1. What is maternal mental health?

“Maternal mental health” addresses challenges faced by women during the reproductive period, which is a particularly vulnerable time in a woman’s life.  During this time, an individual may develop symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. We estimate that one in seven women will experience postpartum depression or another perinatal mood disorder. These disorders are highly treatable and early detection is crucial, as a woman’s mental health has a direct impact on her ability to care for her baby.

  1. What are some useful tips for expectant mothers to support their mental health?

Here are some signs new moms and their families should look out for:

  • feelings of sadness
  • mood swings, highs and lows, feeling overwhelmed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • lack of interest in things the mother used to enjoy
  • changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • anxiety
  • excessive worry about your baby
  • fearing that she can’t take care of her baby
  • feelings of guilt and inadequacy
  • difficulty accepting motherhood
  • irritability

Every family should know that they did nothing to cause this and they can always ask for help. They should recognize that while the baby is a major focus, their needs are important too. If you have questions or need help, talk to your doctor or health care provider about how you are feeling. For more tips, visit our web based app: http://app.maternalmentalhealthnow.org/#/

In rare cases, an individual may present with extreme symptoms that pose a risk to the safety of herself and her baby. In these instances always seek emergency care.

  1. How can service providers ensure that they are being inclusive of the needs of mothers?

All care providers should not be afraid to ask how a mother is doing. We can never tell just by looking. It is important to provide brochures and put up posters to reduce stigma, so moms can get the help they need. Also, providers should remember mom’s partners may need help too.

Kelly O’Connor Kay is the Executive Director of Maternal Mental Health NOW, an organization whose mission is to remove barriers to the prevention, screening and treatment of prenatal and postpartum depression in Los Angeles County.