Every year, nearly 4 million babies will be born across the U.S. Worldwide, around 392,000 babies were born on New Year’s Day alone! Even so, conversations about mothers’ mental and psychological well-being leave something to be desired. In fact, up until recently, these conversations rarely took place at all. Luckily, that is changing. Here is what we were are learning about moms’ emotional health during pregnancy and immediately after birth, and the ways we can work together to ensure births are as healthy as possible, physically and mentally.
Maternal Depression and Postpartum Depression Are On The Rise
Maternity services, maternity centers, birthing centers, and women’s studies all show a disturbing trend: depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression are getting worse, not better. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), instances of postpartum depression increased sevenfold from 2000 to 2015. Postpartum Support International (PSI) reports that one in seven women will suffer from postpartum depression symptoms. These symptoms include post traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, panic, and/or recurring intrusive thoughts.
Increased Awareness And Support
Although it is still very much a work in progress, healthcare professionals, new and experienced moms, and women all over the world are banding together to raise awareness for maternal health. Two years ago, women celebrated the first World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMHday) on May 1, 2018. This year, the annual event will be held on May 6, 2020. Anyone can join the social media campaign and lend his or her support. The campaign asks participants to like their social media pages, use the hashtag #maternalMHmatters on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and blog about their personal birth stories and mental health, or–with permission and their blessing–the experiences of their partners.
Staying Mentally Healthy During Pregnancy
First, know that what you are experiencing is normal. It is okay to talk about, and it does not make you a bad mom! Pregnancy can be a stressful time, and a physically and mentally challenging one, too. If you are a having a particularly rough day or several rough days in a row, here are some things you can do that may help:
- Write It Down
This can take several forms. Pick the one that works best for you! Some moms-to-be may feel self-conscious disclosing their darkest thoughts to their partners or friends. That’s where a journal comes in. Writing thoughts down gives them less power, and a piece of paper or a word processor does not judge. Another option is a gratitude journal. Sometimes it is enough to blow off steam. Sometimes, you need something more. If you are still feeling depressed or anxious after journaling, a gratitude journal may help. Write down at least five things that make you grateful, and try to do it semi-consistently, at least several times per week.
- Stay Active
Talk to your doctor or local maternity services about exercise. Done right, staying active can be healthy for you and your baby. Work with maternity services to create a safe exercise program. In early and mid-pregnancy, the general rule of thumb is to keep doing what you are doing. Do not add miles to running programs or increase the intensity of strength training programs. Maintaining your current level of fitness as long as you are comfortably able to should be okay.
- Hire a Doula
Partners can only do so much, especially if they are men and do not have experience giving birth. A doula is great for additional support and a doula can help your partner give you better support, too. Doulas can help with breathing, relaxation exercises, and–you guessed it–overall mental well-being and health.
Tackling Postpartum Depression and Depression Symptoms That Persist
If symptoms persist after birth, do not be afraid to reach out for help. One-on-one therapy, group therapy and postpartum support groups, online therapy, and telephone therapy are all available at your convenience.
Maternity services, hospitals, birthing centers, and women all over the world know: maternal mental health is important! Join the conversation, and get the help you need.