Navigating Maternal Mental Health

Did you know that 1 in 7 women experience either postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety after having a baby? The good news is that there is help. Before I started specializing in helping moms, I had no idea how prevalent postpartum depression and anxiety are. I also didn’t realize how many resources are available.

I know that as moms, we often put our own needs on the back burner because we’re busy taking care of our families. Sometimes even if you know something isn’t right, you might not know how to get the help you need. Not only is there a huge stigma attached to mental health and admitting that you need help, but it can also be overwhelming making it hard to know where to start.

Fighting The Stigma

In fact, I’m pretty sure that I had undiagnosed postpartum depression with my first child. My OBGYN actually prescribed an antidepressant when I went for my check up. I couldn’t stop crying and I had answered a few questions about how I was feeling. But at the time, I was so against taking medicine even as a therapist who was recommending it to her clients! I was just so afraid of how it would make me feel. I worried if it was ok to take while I was breastfeeding. After talking to some friends, I realized that I wasn’t the only one who thought being a mom was hard.

This made me feel better and I never took the prescription that I had filled. But after years of suffering and having multiple professionals recommend antidepressants, I finally agreed to try them. Through lots of trial and error, I’m finally happier than I have ever been. I just wish that I hadn’t waited so long to accept help.

It’s ok to not be ok, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better. Getting help doesn’t make you weak. It actually makes you stronger! If you’re feeling sad or overwhelmed to the point that you think it’s interfering with your ability to take care of yourself or your child, you may need to seek professional help. If you don’t know where to start, here are some websites to guide you through the process.

5 Maternal Mental Health Resources

1. Postpartum Support International

Postpartum Support International is full of resources for moms and their support systems. They have FREE online support groups as well as a helpline that you can call or text and someone will call you back to answer your questions or connect you with resources. They also have an online directory of qualified perinatal mental health providers so that you can easily find someone to help in your area.

2. Mother To Baby

Mother To Baby is an organization that is full of information about the safety of medications and other exposures during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It can be scary to think about whether or not it’s worth the risk to take medication for depression or anxiety while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. But sometimes the risk far outweighs the cost of not getting help. Mother To Baby can answer your questions with expert, confidential, and no cost information via phone, text, email, or chat.

3. National Postpartum Depression Warmline- 1-800-PPD-MOMS

This is the toll free number that you can all to reach a volunteer at Postpartum Support International who will help connect you with resources for postpartum depression or anxiety in your area.

4. Psychology Today

Psychology Today is a free database of therapists, psychiatrists, and other mental health providers. You can simply enter your zip code and search for professionals by name, zip code, or city. You can also read a brief description of the services each person offers and request an appointment from there.

5. Call Your Insurance Company or Healthcare Provider

Most doctors have some training in mental health and can complete an assessment to see if you might need specialized treatment for anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders. Your OBGYN should be able to provide you with some referrals to psychiatrists or therapists in your area. You can also call the phone number on the back of your insurance card to request a list of referrals.

Other Resources For Moms

2020 Mom

2020 Mom is an organization that works to close the gaps in maternal mental health. They offer trainings for professionals and resources to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health.

Our aim was to shine a light on the problem, change the narrative from calling the range of disorders “postpartum depression” to “Maternal Mental Health Disorders” and identify the barriers and solutions.”

2020 Mom

You can become can become an ambassador for maternal mental health by doing good deeds to help raise awareness. Share your postpartum story to help other moms see that they aren’t alone and 2020 Mom may post it on their website.

Push Thru Podcast

The Push Thru Podcast is written by fellow maternal mental health therapist, Keisha Reaves. She talks about postpartum depression, her own postpartum story, and other challenges of motherhood. Keisha also has a private practice in Atlanta, Georgia where she specializes in treating moms. She has made it her mission to normalize therapy and assists women who are trying to conceive, have infertility issues, currently pregnant, adjusting to motherhood, dealing with postpartum depression or have experienced infant loss.

Running In Triangles

Running In Triangles is a blog written by two moms who are also sisters. Their goal is to help spread the message that motherhood isn’t a competition and there isn’t one perfect way to do it. They have lots of good resources on their website about motherhood from maternal mental health, to breastfeeding, and even gift guides.

The Blue Dot Project

The Blue Dot Project was created by Peggy O’Neil Nosti, a mom who suffered from postpartum anxiety with her third child who wanted to find a way to let other moms know they were not alone. Peggy created a subtle image of a blue dot and a silver lining to illustrate hope. 

The symbol was selected by the former National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health after one of its member organizations, Postpartum Support International hosted a contest to seek symbol ideas. The symbol is now being used in multiple ways to promote awareness and solidarity. 

You can help the Blue Dot Project by participating in their annual Blue Dot Run and join together in solidarity with other women to lift the stigma and shame surrounding maternal mental health.

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts

Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts is a book written by Karen Kleiman, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center. It’s filled with stigma busting cartoons that help moms validate their feelings, share their fears, and start feeling better. It’s a great resource for busy moms, their partners, and families.

Pickles & Ice Cream

Pickles & Ice Cream is a web platform dedicated to providing all the prenatal and postpartum information you need. It’s a place you can connect with other moms through message boards, gain valuable information about motherhood, and join their online groups or classes tailored to specific topics.

I hope these resources help you navigate the challenges of maternal mental health. If you want to talk to a licensed professional contact us to schedule a free consultation to see how we can help. Remember, you are not alone!

It’s Ok To Admit Defeat

Ok so I know that phrase, “It’s ok to not be ok” is trending, but what does it really mean? For me, it means that it’s ok to admit that I can’t do it alone anymore. It’s ok for me to get help with depression and anxiety. The more I talk about it, the more I realize how many other moms with depression and anxiety there are.

I’ve struggled off and on with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know this. It wasn’t until the past few years, that I accepted that it’s ok to admit it though. I spent so many years wanting to help others escape the pain of depression and anxiety, but I didn’t fully face my own issues until recently.

What that looked like for me was admitting that even though I had a Master’s degree in counseling, it was still ok to need counseling myself. For so many years, I found excuses for avoiding it. I have probably made every excuse in the book.

My Excuses Were:

It costs too much.

What if someone finds out?

There aren’t any counselors that I don’t already know.

What if they think I’m crazy?

I don’t have enough time.

What if I don’t like them?

I don’t need to pay someone to tell me to do what I already know I need to do.

But let me tell you this, now that I have found a counselor that I really like and the right combination of medicine, my only regret is not starting it sooner. A friend recently said that she wished when she had her first child that someone had pushed her a little harder to start antidepressant medication. Now that she’s on it, she can see how much it’s helping her.

Another friend said that once she started taking anti-depressants she thought, “Wow, is this how good everyone else feels? I had no idea how depressed I was before!”

Moms with depression can feel too overwhelmed to get help.

I know how hard it is to get yourself out of bed some days. Making yourself go through the motions to get your kids to school and make sure your house doesn’t burn down can be exhausting to any mom. Add depression to the mix, and it can feel almost impossible. So I get why reaching out for help can be the last thing you want to do. I promise it will be worth it.

Depression and anxiety can also make you think you’re a bad mom. If you’re already feeling worthless and hopeless, having kids who seem to never be satisfied can make you feel like you’re never enough. For some strange reason, there is a societal pressure to be super mom. We’re expected to get up at 5 am just so we can shower, wash our hair, put on a fresh face, pack our kids organic lunches, and send them off to school with bows in their hair and a smile.

If you struggle with anxiety, you already know that you second guess every decision you make. If you don’t you probably spend alot of your time comparing yourself to every other mom, wondering if you’re doing a good enough job. But I promise you, if you are keeping your kids fed and dressed (even if that means they wear pjs all day while doing virtual school), you are enough! If you’re feeling like you just can’t do it anymore though, that’s ok too.

Just because it’s ok to feel that way, to not feel ok or like you can’t provide your kids their basic needs anymore, doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Learn from my mistakes and admit defeat before you spend one more day suffering.

Reach Out For Help

If you don’t know where to begin, just try. Call your mom or call your best friend and tell them that you’re riding the struggle bus. I promise you that you are not alone.

The more you talk about how hard being a mom is, the more you will find that you aren’t the only one who struggles.

Here are 10 celebrity moms with depression that you probably didn’t even know struggled!

I’m not saying that you have to go see a counselor or take medication if motherhood feels like a struggle to you. There’s no mom out there who hasn’t struggled at some point since becoming a mom.

What I am saying though is if you are at the point where you just can’t do it anymore, it’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok, but that doesn’t mean you have to not be ok forever.

tip for moms with depression

Sometimes it’s hard to know if what you’re feeling is the sadness that everyone experiences at some point or if what you’re feeling is depression.

Healthline lists the following 8 symptoms that might help you decide if it’s time to get help:

Possible Signs of Depression:

  1. Hopeless outlook
  2. Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  3. Increased fatigue and sleep problems
  4. Anxiety
  5. Irritability
  6. Changes in appetite and weight
  7. Uncontrollable emotions
  8. Thinking about death more often

If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to reach out for help either way. Even if the sadness or other emotions you’re feeling are not depression, it’s still ok to talk to a therapist. Or find a friend that you can share how you’re feeling with. If you don’t have a friend that you feel comfortable talking to, I’m always here to listen!

Make sure to share this post with other moms with depression and anxiety so they can see that they aren’t alone!

Pinterest 8 signs you may need help with depression sad mom and daughter trying to console her

Living With Anxiety and Depression In Times of Extreme Uncertainty

My journey as a mom has been like a rollercoaster ride.

I’m happy to say that right now I feel like I’m coming to a smooth part of the ride. The part that’s after the thrill where you can sit back and enjoy the adrenaline high. The part where you don’t want it to end, but you know you’ll have to get off soon.

You might be wondering how this could be possible when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our world is filled with so much uncertainty, yet I’m feeling so good.

Back in March, this was definitely not the case. When quarantine started I was feeling ok. My 5-year-old had just broken his arm and needed surgery. We were stuck at home and I was forced to homeschool my kids.

My daily routine of getting up at 6:30, taking the kids to school, coming home to make a nice breakfast, going for a run or to a class at the gym, spending a few hours writing, cleaning up, and doing some laundry had all been thrown out the window.

I wasn’t even going to the grocery store anymore. I’d lost my girls’ nights out and couldn’t’ see my friends at playgroups or PTA meetings.

Despite all of this, I was still surviving and remained optimistic. I was getting my runs in when I could, but they slowly turned into walks.

Taking A Turn For The Worse

At some point, I started to have less energy. I’d drag myself out of bed in the morning, but I immediately couldn’t stop thinking about how good it would feel to go back to bed later that day.

mom struggling with anxiety and depression

I had no interest in playing with my kids. As the weeks went by, I was still going for my walks, but the whole time I was out walking I’d dread having to go back home.

I kept hearing from other moms and parenting experts that I needed to find a routine. They were saying that it would help us get through virtual learning and would help me feel better. I just didn’t have the energy to do it.

Then I started to dread everything. It felt like there’d never be anything to look forward to again. I felt so hopeless. I’m not going to say I lost hope, but I could see how some people in my situation could have.

Even though I had people all around me telling me how much they loved me, I just felt so sad.

Luckily, I had started going to a therapist right before all of this happened. So I had already built a relationship with her.

She had mentioned medication a few times in January when we first met. But I told her it wasn’t something I wanted to try. I’d tried medication before and didn’t like the way it made me feel.

As a good therapist should, she persisted. Finally one day, she pointed out that taking medication would be like giving me training wheels. It could help give me just enough motivation and energy to use the tools we were practicing during therapy.

How One Phone Call Can Mean So Much

Then a good friend called me. She’d noticed that I wasn’t the same and told me about her experience with medication. She told me how much it had helped her and gave me the name of her doctor.

I was able to get in the same week, and was started on an antidepressant right away. After just a few days, I started to have energy again. Then after a few weeks of taking it, I felt like another person.

During my therapy sessions, I started noticing myself falling into negative or anxious thought patterns again. This time my reaction was different though. I noticed when I was doing it and was able to stop myself. It finally dawned on me how that is the whole point of going to counseling!

There’s no magic pill that will solve all your problems. Taking medication was life-changing for me though.

Fighting The Resistance

It’s not easy to share my story with the world. But I know how long I resisted taking medications and how much it ended up helping me once I finally gave it another try. The only regret I have now is that I didn’t try it sooner.

Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing story after story of other moms struggling. I realized that if I let my fear of being vulnerable stop me from sharing, then I may be missing out on helping someone who really needs to hear that they aren’t alone.

 

Moms are struggling now more than ever! Experts agree that coronavirus is taking a larger toll on women, especially moms.

On top of all our regular motherly duties we are juggling virtual learning, keeping our kids’ safe, making sure the masks are always clean, and trying to figure out a way to maintain a socially distant social life.

I don’t know what I would have done without my husband a few months ago. Not only did he remind me that my family needed me, but he took on many of the household tasks I usually did.

I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I was working a full-time job on top of everything else.

It may seem like it’s easy for someone like me who is a former therapist to say how much it can help. But I’ve seen so many different counselors over the years, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I really felt like it was helping.

Moving Forward

Part of that could be that it wasn’t the right fit. Or maybe I wasn’t doing the homework that I needed to really change. But I think this time, the medication really did give me the extra boost that I needed to move forward.

I’m not going to say that I’m completely cured. Medication isn’t the end all be all. There will still be hard days. Especially right now, with a pandemic that isn’t going away anytime soon.

My kids are going to be little for a while and are going to be needy. My free time will be limited and there will be other bumps and turns on the roller coaster along the way. There may even be times where the ride malfunctions and I’ll have to call for back up.

At least now I have this period where I’m feeling good to look back on. If I do start to spiral again, I’ll know that there is hope. I’ll be able to really say to myself this too shall pass and believe it.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. Even if you’ve tried getting help before and it didn’t seem to work. Try again!

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RELATED POSTS

My Anxious Life

8 Things To Say When Someone Who Is Depressed

It’s Ok To Admit Defeat

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Pinterest Managing Anxiety and Depression as a Mom in Times of Extreme Uncertainty with a sad mom holding her son

10 Things Moms Wish Someone Had Told Them About Being a New Mom

The first few months of motherhood can be one of the most amazing yet hardest parts of a woman’s life. There are so many new experiences that you don’t expect and don’t know how to react to. There are moments of doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and overwhelming fear.

But once you realize that you aren’t alone and that what you are going through is normal it is such a relief! For some reason we don’t talk about these things until after the fact. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to scare women away from motherhood. But I want moms to know that they aren’t alone, which is why I started this blog in the first place.

I think I’ve kind of buried a lot of the memories of the newborn phase or maybe it’s all a blur because I was so sleep deprived. So I asked some of my mom friends what they wish someone had told them before they had kids.

Here’s what they had to say:

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Became A Mom

It’s Lonely:

There will be days and night that seem to run together in the beginning, and you’ll feel so alone. You’ll feel like you’re never going to get out of the house, but then one day you’ll get out of the newborn baby fog and you’ll feel comfortable leaving the house with them. You’ll be able to do a little more outside of the house each week, and eventually things will start to feel normal again. 

I joined a local Mom’s Club when I had my 2nd and this really helped force me out of the house. I highly recommend it if this is an option in your area.

Breastfeeding is Hard:

Before I had my first child, I don’t remember anyone telling me how hard breastfeeding was. For some moms, it just doesn’t work. It’s ok to switch to formula at ANY time. Your baby will be fine as long as you are feeding him something.

See a Lactation Consultant:

If you do decide to continue with breastfeeding though, there is help out there. See a lactation consultant. Call the hospital and they will help you schedule this. Some insurances even cover it. There are also support groups for breastfeeding mothers and this can be a great way to meet other moms who are going through the same issues.

Cluster Feeding is a Thing:

There will be days when your baby wants to eat in between feedings and you’ll feel like all you’re doing is feeding them. They may want to eat every hour. There is nothing wrong with you or your milk, it’s just something that some babies do. The good news is that they often store up for longer sleeps when they do this!

It’s Ok to Not Love Every Moment of Motherhood:

There will be hard days and times where you don’t love being a mom, but that’s just par for the course. You are not alone in feeling that way and it doesn’t make you a bad mom. It’s also ok to feel sad.

Postpartum depression is more common than you think- it affects up to 15% of mothers. With PPD feelings of sadness are more extreme and they begin to interfere with your ability to take care of yourself and your baby. If you think you might have PPD, you can learn more here and find out how to get help.

You Have To Accept Help:

People will offer to help and you have to let them! You can’t do it all alone, especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to adjust. If your friend wants to come over and help, put her to work so you can take a nap. Let her do a few loads of laundry. Let her hold the baby for a few minutes so you can go take a shower. It doesn’t make you a weaker mom, it will make you stronger when you can come back refreshed!

It takes a village! Read about how I found my village in this previous post: https://momlifewithp.com/how-i-found-my-village/

It Might Feel Like It’s Getting Harder At First:

Around week 2 the baby might start being awake more during the day (and unfortunately at night too). This is also around the time your adrenaline rush starts to wear off and you start to feel the effects of sleep deprivation catching up to you. This is when you need to reach out for help.

Your Baby Will Be OK:

Having a baby will be terrifying at times. So many of my friends referenced this part, but they want you to know that you don’t have to be afraid. Your baby will be ok and you are fully capable of keeping them alive! Each day will get easier and you’ll look back one day and see what a great job you did.

Trust Your Gut:

There are endless amounts of parenting books (and now mom blogs) out there. A lot of them will give you conflicting advice. Sometimes it will be better to just ignore it all and trust your gut. If you think you want to let your baby cry it out, do it. If you’d rather go in and hold her every time she cries in the middle of the night, DO it! Neither way is right or wrong and you have to figure out what works for you.

It Will Get Easier:

It might be really really hard in the beginning, but it will get easier. People wouldn’t keep having babies after their first time around if this wasn’t true. This was one of the best tidbits of advice a fellow mom gave me when I was a newbie. Hold on to this and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Share in the comments if you have anything else to add to this list. The more we can share to make it easier for new moms the better!

You Are Loved

I’ve hesitated to write this post for a while. I didn’t want to “open up a can of worms” about something so dark and depressing. Plus, I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but then I thought, “What if someone really needs to hear it?”

Do I really want to take that chance if maybe what I have to say about such a controversial topic could save a life?

September is National Suicide Awareness Month. And as much as I don’t want to talk about this subject, not talking about it will only feed into the stigma that causes people to follow through with it.

People who are suffering and contemplating taking their own life need to know that they aren’t alone.

They need to know that there are people out there who will listen. People who love them and want to help.

Moms Listen Up

There will be hard days. There may even be days where you think that not living is easier than dealing with the challenges you’re facing with your kids.

Especially for new moms, there WILL be days when your baby wakes you up multiple times in the middle of the night and is inconsolable.

tired and depressed mom who wants to give up

There may be times where you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and it’s never going to get better.

You might be so sleep deprived that you feel like you can’t function. You won’t be able to remember the last time you showered, the laundry will start piling up, and your house might feel like it’s a disaster.

You may even yell at your baby and think you aren’t worthy of being their mom. I promise you though, you are worthy and it will get better.

Some moms may feel like their kids hate them and no matter what they do, they’ll never make them happy. Those with teens, can probably vouch for this even more than the rest of us.

There may be days when you think you’re totally screwing your child up and they will never make it in the real world. There will most definitely be shouting matches and words said that you won’t be able to take back.

I’m here to tell you that even that will get better.

I remember a phase where I hated my mom and thought she knew nothing. Now I consider her one of my best friends and I turn to her in times of doubt. I may not have shown her much love from the age of 13 to probably 17 or 18. But I needed her and I loved her.

I need her now more than ever.

Everyone Needs To Hear This

Dads need to hear it too. 

You are loved!

Even on the days when you feel guilty about working all the time and not spending enough time playing catch or eating dinner with your family. You’re doing a good job and your family needs you!

Brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, nephews, nieces, friends, grandparents- you are loved too.

Everyone is loved and serves a purpose on this earth, even if you don’t feel it right now.

In your darkest hour, you may not be able to see what that purpose is. But I promise, you have a purpose!

Please don’t give up. Reach out for help. Find a reason to live and remember that you are loved.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition.

Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

The month of September is spent to increase awareness, decrease the stigma, and provide resources for those who are affected by suicide. 

Below are the steps that NAMI lists to take in crisis situations:

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you’re in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255).
  • You can also text NAMI at 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Even after I wrote this, I was doubting whether or not I should post it.

Then when I was getting dressed this morning, I saw three words stitched on the inside of my leggings. The words You Are Loved. I have at least 4 other pairs of black leggings, but these are the ones that I picked up to wear today. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.

Please reach out for help if you or someone you know is suffering. They don’t need to suffer in silence anymore.