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:
- crying often
- 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
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
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) –
www.postpartum.net Online support meetings in English and Spanish! Website can translate
* PSI Warmline - Call the support warmline for help 800-944-4773
*Maternal Mental Health NOW in LA-
*Inland Empire Perinatal Mental Health Collaborative –
*San Bernardino Maternal Mental Health Directory (find a clinic) -
*Mom & Mind Podcast – many topics related to maternal mental
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.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE, WITH HELP YOU CAN BE WELL!
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