Mental Health for Mothersadmin
For many women, the arrival of a baby brings with it joy and excitement that can be hard to contain. After all, you’ve been waiting years for this moment!
But even if your happiness shows through in your smile or giggle, not everyone will share in your joy. That’s where the phrase “maternity glow” comes from — because no matter how happy we may feel about our babies, there’s always some part of us that feels uneasy.
We worry about what others think of us as parents, whether they’ll love our child just as much as we do, and how we’ll ever balance work and family life once we have kids. There’s also so much pressure on new moms to look perfect at every turn, which can make them feel self-conscious and insecure. All these things can contribute to a mom feeling overwhelmed during her pregnancy and the postpartum period.
Focusing on Your Strengths as a Mom
The good news is that you’re an expert on yourself. You know what makes you most comfortable, and that’s what you should strive to keep doing. The best way to care for your mental health is to take time for yourself each day.
This means spending quality time alone and away from other people, especially men. It’s a time when you can relax and regroup without interruptions. Find activities that bring you pleasure. Go out and enjoy nature, shop, read, or try something new.
Take advantage of the freedom from responsibilities that come along with being a parent. Most importantly, don’t isolate yourself. Make sure you surround yourself with positive people who will encourage and boost your spirits.
Read on to learn more about maternal mental health and why it’s important to seek help if you feel your mental health is declining.
What Is Maternal Mental Health?
As mentioned earlier, there are many reasons why a woman might experience depression. For example, she could suffer from hormonal changes, anxiety related to the upcoming birth, experiencing feelings of inadequacy due to body image issues, or financial stress.
Depression can develop slowly over time or occur suddenly. Women with bipolar disorder often experience mood swings before getting depressed, while those with the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) tend to start showing symptoms months before menstruation starts. Postpartum depression happens within three weeks of delivery, although it affects fewer than 1 percent of new moms.
Conditions that Effect Mental Health for Women
Other conditions that affect women’s mental health include weight and image issues and other mental disorders. Some women also suffer from anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, phobias, or agoraphobia. Not surprisingly, women who face chronic pain tend to suffer from higher levels of anxiety and depression compared to those whose pain subsides after giving birth.
Women with PMS, PMDD, postpartum depression, or similar conditions are more likely to have adverse reactions to antidepressants. Therefore, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking psychotropic medications. Your physician may prescribe medication therapy or refer you to a specialist.
Why Is Mental Health Important for Moms?
New moms are expected to be joyful, upbeat, and confident. Yet, many of them are plagued by feelings of sadness, irritability, fatigue, loss of interest in sex, despair, and anxiety.
Fortunately, there are effective treatments available, including counseling and medication management. Depression can occur gradually or suddenly, but treatment can begin immediately to relieve symptoms and prevent further progression. Options vary depending on the type of condition and severity.
Mental health support is important for moms because of the huge responsibility they have. Women shoulder a lot of the emotional weight in the family environment.
Children rely on them for nurturing and other mental elements, so a mom needs to be mentally well herself. If she’s not, forging on as the emotional rock for the family is extremely difficult.
The Importance of Support for New Moms
Support plays an essential role in helping new mothers cope with the stresses of parenting. Good support includes information about caring for newborns, breastfeeding, infant development, and handling common challenges such as sleepless nights, household chores, and money worries.
Having a partner, spouse, relative, friend, or coworker close by to vent, talk, or listen is invaluable. Other types of support include access to professional services such as lactation consultants and doulas.
Consider joining a group or attending classes that teach coping strategies to deal with daily stresses. Keep a journal to write down your feelings, fears, concerns, and questions. Sharing your experiences with others can lead to greater awareness of the issues affecting you and deeper connections with similar situations.
Factors Affecting Maternal Mental Health
Family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors play vital roles in helping new moms overcome their struggles. Their support goes beyond words of encouragement. Research indicates that social support improves mental health, reduces the risk for developing depression, and increases survival rates. Social support functions to protect against loneliness and isolation, provide comfort, and help buffer stressful events.
Social support gives new mothers purpose and meaning. It lets them believe in themselves and their abilities to handle everyday tasks. When new moms receive positive feedback from loved ones, they feel worthy of accomplishment.
Supportive interactions promote compliance with doctors’ orders, proper nutrition, and exercise routines. People who provide social support also act as role models, setting examples for young mothers to follow.
Family and friends can also assist new moms with childcare, shopping, errands, and housework.
Risks for Maternal Mental Health
While some women recover naturally without intervention, others may require treatment. Even mild cases can progress into severe forms that hinder productivity and cause distress. Here are three main risks that increase the likelihood of mental illness in new mothers.
Women with chronic pain are more prone to depression since pain can interfere with sleep, mobility, and daily functioning. Those who are obese or overweight are at increased risk for musculoskeletal conditions, back pain, and joint pain. Chronic pain can also worsen depression by decreasing activity levels and causing insomnia.
Stressful Life Events
Losses in childhood and adulthood can trigger the long-term brain and nervous system changes, leading to depression later in life. Traumatic events such as sexual assault, an abusive spouse, or issues with children can trigger extreme stress in a mother.
Drug and alcohol use are known contributors to poor mental health, yet some women still fall into this trap. It’s especially stressful in mothers because they shoulder the guilt of using while juggling the responsibility of handling the children. The maternal instinct is strong, and ignoring it can cause significant mental damage.
Being a parent is the most challenging job you’ll ever have, but it doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming if you’re aware of what your options are and take action.
Read up on statistics from around the country and talk with other moms who may also want to share their experiences. The following section contains maternal mental health stats about New Mexico, the location of Icarus Behavioral Health.
Statistics On Maternal Mental Health In New Mexico
The number one and two causes of maternal deaths in New Mexico are drug overdose and suicide. This speaks volumes about the importance of improving maternal mental health in the state.
These two causes of death can both be directly attributed to mental health. The overall goal must be obtaining mental health treatment if you suffer from maternal mental health challenges. In the meantime, consider the following tips to improve your mental health as a mom.
How Do I Improve My Mental Health as a Mom?
There are plenty of ways to stay mentally healthy when raising children, including learning effective coping skills so you don’t turn to food, alcohol, drugs, or shopping sprees to relieve tension. Here’s a list of things you can do now to ensure better mental health later:
- Exercising releases endorphins that make us feel good, increases blood flow throughout our bodies, and help regulate mood. It also reduces stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which play major roles in increasing heart rate and blood pressure levels and increasing stress.
- Eating nutrient-rich foods full of vitamins and minerals not only keeps you feeling energized and alert but also promotes better mental health overall. When you feel good physically, you feel good mentally.
- Lack of sleep affects cognitive function, memory, and reaction times. It can also lead to mental distress and frustration, which can both cause mental decline. Aim for 7–8 hours per night.
- Stress causes hormonal changes that affect appetite, metabolism, immune system response, and attitude. Learn breathing techniques to calm yourself down and practice meditation to reduce daily stresses.
- Connecting with family members and friends gives perspective on life, fosters self-awareness, and enhances emotional intelligence. Join organizations where you can meet others dealing with similar challenges.
- Be patient and persistent – Life isn’t always fair, but sometimes we get what we deserve or want. While you cannot change external circumstances, you can choose to adopt positive attitudes. Give yourself credit for everything you accomplish, no matter how small. Practice gratefulness and stop complaining. Accept compliments graciously and appreciate moments of kindness. Remember that setbacks happen along the way, and you’ll eventually reach goals. Persistence pays off!
- Talk to trusted loved ones about your feelings. Reach out to professionals trained to deal specifically with mental illness to receive appropriate referrals, assessments, and counseling services. Find someone willing to listen and validate your experience without judging you.
Dual Diagnosis and Mental Health Support
Many people suffering from dual diagnoses often receive little or inadequate attention from doctors and caregivers. According to NAMI, “A person living with multiple conditions, whether related or unrelated, is called ‘dual diagnosis.’ And today, the number of Americans affected by dual diagnosis continues to grow.” Research shows that dual diagnosis patients are twice as likely to die prematurely as comparison groups.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that primary care providers assess for substance abuse, screen for psychiatric problems, provide education on potential consequences, and offer referral to specialists trained to treat these conditions.
However, this assessment process is often ignored, especially among low-income populations and certain ethnicities. This leaves people vulnerable to poor outcomes.
For example, individuals diagnosed with coexisting opioid dependence and HIV infection are more likely to develop liver failure, pneumonia, and other infections than those infected with either condition alone. Researchers say the problem lies in physicians’ lack of communication regarding drug interactions and side effects.
Address Holistic Wellness with Icarus Behavioral Health
In addition, researchers have discovered that treating chronic pain and its resulting prescription reliance does nothing to address underlying psychological distress. Pain medication relievers actually cause greater harm over time, causing higher suicide, overdose, and death incidences. These findings suggest that addressing underlying mental health needs could potentially save lives.
All of these elements are especially critical when it comes to maternal mental health, as women are at higher risk for mental health challenges and shoulder more of the emotional load for the family.
At Icarus Behavioral Health, we understand how important maternal mental health is. We have experts who specialize in helping moms get back to a strong mental state and return to leading the home.
For more information on how we can help moms, contact one of our admissions specialists today.