Maternal Mental Health Awareness

This May, we celebrate Maternal Mental Health Awareness. So, what is Maternal Mental Health? Well, it’s all about our emotional and mental wellness during conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Most people think that being pregnant and having a baby is the most wonderful time in a woman’s life. For some women, it is! However, for about 20 percent of women, that’s about 1 in 5 women, they experience unexpected or very difficult changes in their mental wellness. They don’t want to feel bad, but they do. It’s a medical problem and something that moms need our support to get out of.

Let’s break it down. You may have heard of the “Baby Blues,” it’s actually pretty common. About 80 percent of women feel overwhelmed, tearful, and emotional or upset for about 2 weeks after birth. With rest, good nutrition and some support, they begin to feel better.

But for about 20 percent of women, they can develop a Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder that can show up anytime in the first year after birth. For a full year! A Perinatal Mood or Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) can be Depression, Anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress, Panic, Obsessive Compulsive and in more rare cases, bipolar disorder or psychosis.

That’s the technical stuff, but what do these actually look like and feel like? Here’s a short list of possible things that a woman could be feeling:

  • sadness
  • crying often
  • overwhelm
  • don’t feel like doing anything
  • hard to get up and get moving
  • sleeping a lot or exhausted
  • Not sleeping that much (not just because of the baby)
  • blaming yourself for things
  • feeling angry or irritated
  • feeling guilty for lots of stuff
  • feeling like a bad mother
  • worried a lot of the time
  • can’t sit and rest
  • strange or scary thoughts popping up in your mind
  • don’t feel like holding or being around baby
  • not feeling like yourself
  • not feeling like being alive

Can you imagine feeling those things while being pregnant or having a newborn? It’s VERY difficult. We all go into pregnancy, birth and postpartum expecting it to be great! It can be devastating when we don’t feel like we expected to feel and want to feel. Unfortunately, lots of moms suffer in silence because they don’t know what’s going on and certainly don’t want anybody to think badly of them.

Let’s not forget dads and partners here. Did you know that partners can have postpartum depression too? About 10 percent of dads also experience big mood changes. They may feel down, angry, irritable, overwhelmed. We have to pay attention to the whole family!

Believe it or not, there is good news here. If you or someone you know is feeling like this, you CAN feel better! It’s not your fault! This is treatable and you will recover!

The first part of feeling better, is realizing that something is not right.

If you don’t feel like yourself or you thought you’d feel better by now and you don’t, then it might be time to reach out. I promise, it’s not just you. I’ve been through postpartum depression and anxiety myself and I know first-hand how our own thoughts turn on us. You really can feel better, you don’t have to suffer. Please reach out!

The second part of feeling better is to get support. The right kind of support.

Here at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center, I run the Pregnancy and Postpartum Stress Support Group. It’s a great place to come and learn that: you are not alone, there are other mamas who feel like you and be supported by people who ‘get it.’ More information ont the Support Group here.

There are also some local psychotherapists who specialize in helping moms who are suffering. I’m happy to connect you with those people! You can call or email me!

Here are really great organizations and informative websites that you can read up on and share with family members:

*Postpartum Support International (PSI) – Online support meetings in English and Spanish! Website can translate to Spanish.

* PSI Warmline - Call the support warmline for help 800-944-4773

*Maternal Mental Health NOW in LA-

*2020Mom –

*Inland Empire Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative –

*San Bernardino Maternal Mental Health Directory (find a clinic) -

*Mom & Mind Podcast – many topics related to maternal mental health –

If you or someone you know is pregnant, postpartum, just gave birth, lost a pregnancy or baby, is having difficulty getting pregnant…you don’t have to deal with it alone. In fact, if you are having a hard time, it’s best for you, your baby and your family if you get support. The sooner the better.


About the Author

Katayune Kaeni, Psy.D. is a psychologist specializing in maternal mental health. She was drawn to this specialty after going through postpartum depression and anxiety with her first child. Dr. Kat hosts a Podcast focused on maternal mental health, called Mom & Mind. She also supports her local community by partnering with the county to provide training for health care providers. She volunteers for Postpartum Support International as the area co-coordinator for San Bernardino County. Dr. Kat looks for any soap-box or mountain-top she can find to raise awareness about maternal mental health. or