Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling gifts life can give. Unfortunately, for many women, becoming a mother can also bring about a wide range of mental health issues. The perinatal mental health crisis, or PMH, is a growing issue in the US, with estimates that nearly 20 percent of all American mothers are struggling with depression and anxiety during or after pregnancy. This is an alarming statistic and one that we should not ignore.
In this blog post, we will look at why those numbers are so high, what mothers who are struggling can do to lessen the burden, and how you can help those who are facing PMH. With the right help, support, and resources, we can start to make a difference and support mothers in need of help.
What is Perinatal Mental Health?
Perinatal mental health (PMH) is the psychological, emotional, and social well-being of parents before and after the birth of their baby. PMH is a growing concern as research has found that nearly 20 percent of American mothers experience perinatal depression or anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum. In addition, research has found that pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of developing a mental health disorder. Therefore, its important to understand the reasons behind the increase in perinatal mental health issues and what can be done to address this crisis.
Reasons for the Increase in Perinatal Mental Health Struggles
The stress of motherhood and lack of support
While the joys of motherhood are undeniable, becoming a mom also comes with a wide array of stressors. While some of this stress is normal, not having support or someone to talk to can make it much worse. Many mothers struggle with returning to work, financial or social pressures, or even the lack of a partner. Without the right kind of support system, the stresses of motherhood can easily become overwhelming.
The impact of physical and hormonal changes
During and after pregnancy, the body goes through many physical and hormonal changes. For example, hormones like progesterone and estrogen can drop dramatically after birth and cause a wide range of issues ranging from insomnia to sudden mood swings. Factors like elevated levels of stress hormones, decreased levels of progesterone and estrogen, changes in melatonin, and hormonal fluctuations due to lactation can all take a toll on mental health.
These changes can be especially problematic for those who already suffer from mental health issues. They can cause or exacerbate existing depression or anxiety and can be very hard to cope with.
Mental health stigmas and lack of awareness
Unfortunately, many mothers who are struggling with their mental health don’t have access to the help or support they need. This lack of access is partly due to the fact that mental health is still widely stigmatized, making people reluctant to discuss their issues. Additionally, there is a lack of awareness when it comes to perinatal mental health, which can make it even harder for new moms to get the help they need.
Coping with Perinatal Mental Health Struggles
Seeking professional help and therapy
One of the best things mothers can do to help cope with perinatal mental health struggles is to seek professional help. Help can come in the form of psychotherapy from a licensed therapist. These professionals can provide guidance and support to help women cope with their mental health struggles, develop strategies for managing their emotions, and how to navigate this new stage of life. At Mindful Health Solutions, we have a dedicated Reproductive Psychiatry program with experts who specialize in conditions like postpartum depression and anxiety.
Talking and reaching out
Talking with trusted family, friends, and support networks is also incredibly important. Just talking about their problems with someone who understands can help women process their emotions and feel supported. Also, reaching out to online communities can be a great way to build mental health support and resources.
Developing a self-care plan
Creating a self-care plan is one of the most beneficial things a woman can do to maintain her mental health. This plan could include daily or weekly activities that make her feel good, such as journaling on a daily basis, going for a walk, or taking a yoga class. These activities can help to reduce stress and give her a sense of control and empowerment.
Coping with stress
Stress is a major factor in perinatal mental health struggles and can be difficult to manage. Determine coping strategies for managing stress, such as practicing deep breathing, meditating, and connecting with nature. Talking with a therapist or a support group can also be beneficial.
Additionally, focusing on living in the present and taking time to relax can help reduce stress levels. While that is easier said than done for new mothers, see if you can work out a time with your partner or a person in your support system when they can take over duties for even just an hour.
How To Help Struggling Mothers
Provide practical help
One of the best ways to help someone struggling with perinatal mental health is to make sure their basic needs are met. These needs may include assisting with childcare, groceries, meals, and providing transportation to medical appointments. Practical help allows the struggling mother to focus on taking care of themselves.
Talk and provide support
During times of struggle, it is important to listen and provide emotional support. Struggling mothers need to feel emotionally supported and heard. Validate their feelings and reassure them that things will get better.
Offer resources and connections. Link them with online support groups and offer to help with research. Share available resources such as counseling and mental health services in their area.
The perinatal mental health crisis is an alarming and growing issue in the United States. With the right help, support, and resources, we can improve the lives of mothers facing PMH and help them find the support they need. If you’re a mother looking for support or know someone who could use a hand, we are here to help. Contact us at 844-867-8444 for a free mental health consultation and get the support you deserve today.