Mama, you are NOT alone.
What if I’m not a good mom? What if she stops breathing? I need to go check if she’s breathing. What if it’s too cold in the room? No, it’s too hot in the room. Is she buckled in correctly? What if she’s sick? Am I feeding her too much? Why isn’t my milk coming in? I hate breastfeeding. Am I failing? Why is she crying? She’s always crying. I’m not good at this. I feel so alone. Why don’t I like my baby yet? I’m supposed to be in love, right? I wish I could just disappear. I need help. I miss my old life. Who am I now?
These types of obsessive and intrusive thoughts commonly overwhelm pregnant women and new moms. And for so long, the mental and emotional health of a pregnant and postpartum woman was completely misunderstood. For so long, a woman was shamed for being too hormonal or too emotional with no regard for the physical, psychological, hormonal, and environmental changes that occur during the perinatal period (pregnancy through a year postpartum). People still continue to crack jokes all the time about the roller coaster that is pregnancy and childbirth. But it isn’t always funny and knowing the truth is crucial.
Most commonly referred to as PPD (Postpartum Depression), now called PMADs (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders) - not all women experience the depressive symptoms. There has been a significant rise in the number of women who experience the anxious, intrusive thoughts similar to those listed above.
1 in 5 pregnant and postpartum women experience a PMAD - YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
There are predictors and risk factors worth being aware of that are often beyond our control including environmental, psychological, and biological.
Treatment and support are out there!
For those out there battling feelings of anxiety or depression during pregnancy or postpartum, here are some recommended quick tips to finding some relief:
SELF-CARE: I know, I know. This is so much easier said than done! The most effective forms of self-care are sleep, nutrition, exercise, and time-off. Some of these sound impossible, especially with a newborn. Do your best and brainstorm ways to make at least a few happen! Maybe you attempt to sleep while pumping, maybe you take turns on night time feedings, maybe you prioritize eating at least two actual meals a day, maybe you take 10 minutes to shower everyday. Self-care looks different for everyone, but is absolutely essential!
Social Support: Lean on your people! Support groups are amazing, but many women I talk to do not feel comfortable in that setting. I totally get that. (Right now, all support groups are being offered virtually which may be less intimidating). Otherwise, turn to your friends and family for practical support. Doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, babysitting or driving older children can be extremely helpful. Try to let go of the pressure to accomplish all of this alone. ASK and ACCEPT help! Just focus on keeping your little human alive and taking care of yourself!
Talk Therapy: Having an objective, third-party ear to discuss new pressures of motherhood, communication with partners, and changes in your roles and relationships can be extremely helpful.
Medication: There are many medications that are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding to help lessen persistent anxiety and depression.
During this time of social distancing and healthcare concerns of COVID-19, mamas are even more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Most, if not all, of the recommended self-care and support resources are not available right now. Having a friend or family member over to do laundry or dishes or just to shower is not much of an option currently. Isolation is at an all time high! Isolation is definitely not good for new mamas. I would argue that isolation is not great for any mamas (enter the Fit4mom Richmond village). Check on all your mama friends! Let her know that what she is thinking and feeling is normal and not crazy at all! Afterall, pregnancy, childbirth, reestablishing a new identity in motherhood, and parenting is no walk in the park. It is more like barely treading water in the pond.
If you know a mama who you think could use some additional treatment or support, please refer her to Postpartum Support Virginia (https://www.postpartumva.org/) or simply give her my contact information (804)282-4000 ext 2 or Jenna@MilesCounseling.com.