Maternal Mental Health Matters
For many of us, the waves of early motherhood can feel like being asked to surf before we even know how to swim. Faced with learning so much so fast, it’s easy to find ourselves adrift in an ocean of overwhelm and exhaustion.
Maternal mental health encompasses the time of pregnancy, through birth, and a year postpartum. It shines a light on this period of a woman’s life that can feel complicated at best and devastating at its worst.
The postpartum period is all too often thought of as the 6 weeks following birth when in reality it’s the entire year after having a baby. And for mamas that find themselves struggling to integrate the cataclysmic shift in their world, it can continue for years until they find the right support to truly heal.
Maternal mental health has become a movement because many mamas are suffering and not sure if it’s ‘normal’, expected or something to hide. Maternal mental health matters because when we get real about what motherhood might actually look like (instead of thinking it will all be instagram worthy), we can grieve the loss of the village and prepare as best we can for the most intense and beautiful journey of our lives.
Keep reading to find out more about what challenges can arises during pregnancy and the postpartum period and what support looks like. If you’re pressed for time scroll down for the 1 min recap of this article.
A Holistic Approach to Postpartum Wellness
I’ve always taken issue with the phrase ‘mental health’. Yes, I am a licensed mental health professional but I practice from a holistic perspective and always have. I do not believe we can separate out our mental health from our physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellness.
It’s only when we zoom out enough to take stock of all the ways we are suffering, of what challenges we face in our mind, heart, body and spirit that we can find the way in and through, that will help us heal and bring us back into balance with our true nature.
Is it Postpartum Depression or…?
Postpartum depression is often used as a catchall for any and all challenges during the postpartum period. In actuality there are a number of perinatal (pregnancy and/or postpartum period) conditions that have been identified, which I’ll outline below.
Perinatal/Postpartum Anxiety is actually the most common symptomatology to show up during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period. Whereas postpartum depression shows up similar to depression, with waves of sadness, crying spells and irritability and/or anger; postpartum anxiety shows up as restlessness, nonstop worrying about the baby, keyed up or on edge, and insomnia. When combined with sleep deprivation, relationship challenges, and hormonal changes, postpartum depression and anxiety can be debilitating.
Check out the list of perinatal mood disorders below and notice what comes up for you. If you see yourself reflected in this list, know that you are not alone and no you are not broken. It means your experience is so common that doctors have given that particular constellation of symptoms a name.
Finding support will be crucial for moving through this challenging time. I’ll walk you through what to do next in a moment.
(PS. For more detailed information about these conditions please head on over to Postpartum support International, an amazing online resource for moms that goes into more depth and detail than I go into here. And if you’re really struggling right now and need to talk to someone you can call their hotline at 1.800.944.4773.)
Symptoms of Perinatal Mood + Anxiety Disorders
- Angry & irritable
- Apathy towards baby
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Feeling sad, crying
- Feeling hopeless, guilty, or ashamed
- Uninterested in things that used to bring you joy or pleasure
- Self harming thoughts (self or baby)
- Racing thoughts that won’t stop or slow down
- Constant fear of what’s going to happen next
- Constant worrying
- Expecting the worst at any moment
- Unable to relax or feel at ease in your skin
- Interrupted sleep, insomnia
- Heart racing, hot flashes, diarrhea, nausea
- Constantly remembering or experiencing the traumatic event(s)
- Feeling detached from your self and your life (dissociated)
- Increased irritability, vigilance and/or startle response
- Intrusive thoughts
- Having unwanted feelings, thoughts or actions that feel ‘uncontrollable’ and are upsetting and disturbing
- Fearful of being left alone with baby
- Preoccupied with safety of baby
Postpartum Bipolar Disorder
- Fluctuations in mood that include highs and lows
- Can often look like depression and/or anxiety
- Depressed mood, irritable
- Increased energy, motivation, confidence
- Decreased need for sleep
- Speaking much faster than normal, excitable
- Extreme irritation
- Possible hallucinations or delusions
- Altered experience of reality
- Difficulty communicating, thoughts moving too fast to speak
How do I Get Help?
If you see yourself in the descriptions above, don’t wait. It’s never too late or too early to get support.
Many of the mamas I work with struggled right after becoming a mom but hoped it would just get better. But the momentum of life kept accelerating and the weight of motherhood felt increasingly heavy until years passed and they finally realized they still needed support. The same challenges, feelings, guilt and heaviness were still there, lingering and unchanging.
Working with the right therapist can provide a sacred space to truly be seen and heard, to sort through the messy parts of your life and make sense of where you are at so you can get where you want to be in your life.
Motherhood brings to the surface all of our vulnerabilities, tenderness and shadowy places. All the spots in our mind, heart, body and soul that are seeking more love. If you can see that your struggles are actually an invitation to the places in you calling out for more love and care, it can make supporting yourself that much easier.
I hope that no matter where you are at in your motherhood journey, if you are reading this and looking for support you are feeling more at ease and know that you are not the only one struggling. The stigma around maternal mental health can be debilitating for some. I hope this article is helpful and encouraging.
Holistic Therapy for New Moms.
I provide holistic therapy and counseling for new moms that is focused on finding quick and easy to implement solutions for whatever you are struggling with.
Traditional psychotherapy is a longer commitment. It often takes months, and focuses on digging deeply to unearth unconscious patterns in your life and relationships, in order to rewire the mind-heart-body circuitry. This is a valuable practice, but typically new moms don’t have the capacity or resources to be doing this kind of work. All good, save it for a more spacious time in your life.
In my practice, I offer holistic psychotherapy for new moms that is focused on addressing your pain points with simple, effective and actionable tools. Most of the mamas I work with come in for a few weeks, learn about how their brain and body are wired, gain a better understanding of why their unique symptoms are so challenging, and go home with specific tools and practices they can start using right away to start feeling better (aka more whole, aligned and at ease).
Therapy isn’t about fixing what’s broken, it’s about gaining clarity around what is and isn’t working in your life, and gaining tools to make sustainable changes in your life.
You got this.
If you’re looking for a step to take right now, I suggest taking a few moments to practice this short and sweet guided meditation HERE.
And of course if you’re looking for support just reach out. Me and my team and here supporting mamas each and every day. We are currently offering virtual holistic counseling for moms anywhere in California as well as in-person sessions in my El Dorado Hills office.
PS. Here’s That 1-Minute Recap:
- Moms matter
- Maternal mental health is a misnomer. Our wellness is really our mental emotional psychical and spiritual well-being
- Challenges in pregnancy and postpartum are more than just postpartum depression
- Check for symptoms
- You don’t need to meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis to seek or benefit from therapy
- Don’t wait
- If you’re struggling, holistic psychotherapy can help.
- Reach out if you need support.
Kim is a licensed holistic psychotherapist with deep roots in the worlds of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. She honors the mind, body, spirit connection and supports individuals struggling with anxiety, trauma, spiritual awakening, and motherhood. Kim offers evidence-based treatment with a heart centered approach, integrating the depth of western psychology with the heart and soul of eastern mysticism. She helps her clients unravel the root cause of their suffering and to live from the heart of embodied wisdom. Kim currently offers holistic counseling to individuals residing in California. Call/text to set up at appointment: 916.467.9539.