About Maternal Mental Health
While pregnancy often elicits many positive emotions, it can also cause a woman to experience negative thoughts and feelings. During pregnancy, past family issues, insecurities, relationship difficulties, and financial issues can become real and immediate concerns. A woman who is expecting may find herself experiencing mood swings, fear, anxiety, forgetfulness, or body image issues. Women who experienced depression or anxiety before becoming pregnant may be more likely to experience mental health concerns during pregnancy. When mental health conditions do occur during pregnancy counseling can be an effective tool for decreasing symptoms during pregnancy as well as preparing for a healthy post partum period.
Approximately 15% of mothers develop Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, or Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Unlike the “baby blues”, these feelings intensify with time and may not go away on their own. Post Partum Anxiety can be especially difficult to pinpoint in the year following birth.
Fathers can also struggle greatly with the transition to parenthood. Your symptoms may be similar to moms or manifest in different ways. It is important to address dad’s feelings and mental health at this big time of change as well. I have experience working with men on this issue and can be a safe place to open up about concerns.
Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety:
Recurrent and regular crying spells
Loss of appetite or dramatic weight gain
Recurrent angry outbursts
Not wanting to be with your baby
Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
Nightmares or flashbacks regarding traumatic childbirth or other previous trauma
Fears of harming yourself or the baby
Feelings of inadequacy as a mother
Feelings of overwhelm, hopelessness or despair
Obsessing about the baby despite reassurances from family, friends, and/or professionals
About scary or intrusive thoughts….
- Intrusive or scary thoughts are negative, unwanted, repetitive thoughts, images and urges that 91% of mothers and 88% of fathers experience.
- In 3-9% of new mothers, intrusive thoughts are a symptom of a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder and may cause extreme fear, anxiety and self-doubt.
- Intrusive or scary thoughts are NOT a sign of psychosis. A mother or father’s distress about these thoughts is a good sign.
- ALL women who report having intrusive thoughts should be referred to a mental health provider for proper assessment and treatment. This symptom is very treatable.
You are not to Blame
If you are having problems, you have probably asked yourself many times, “Why me?” The most important thing to remember is that this is not your fault. The causes of postpartum difficulties are varied and complex and include biological changes, psychological influences and relationship factors. In fact, it may be a combination of all three that is affecting you.
Seeking Support and Help
If it has been 2-4 weeks since you had your baby, and your problems are getting worse, you may want to seek additional help. I specialize in postpartum adjustment. My approach combines support, education and a mind/body approach to counseling. I often work with women and their partners in the recovery process because postpartum difficulties affect the whole family.
Call for a free consultation. For emergencies call 911 or visit your nearest hospital