May has been designated as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month; A topic that is near and dear to my heart. Something I became passionate about once I became a mother. A topic that hit home for me when I realized I was affected. But the ironic part is, I was a mental health professional and I had no idea what was going on in my mind. I suffered in silence until I stumbled upon other mothers’ experiences, symptoms, and feelings in an online search. As I read article after article I realized what I had was a thing. I felt relieved. I felt empowered. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. A few months later I became trained in treating Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Maternal Mental Health. It means a lot to me. And with 1 in 7 new moms affected, it should mean a lot to you too. So let’s talk about it!
What Are Maternal Mental Health Disorders?
Maternal Mental Health Disorders include Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder, Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPTSD), and Psychosis. The most common of these disorders are Depression and Anxiety.
Believe it or not, mental health disorders are the #1 complication of childbirth. Yes, you read that correct. Maternal Mental Health Disorders are the number one complication of childbirth! Statistics report that 1 in 7 moms will suffer from a Perinatal Maternal Mental Health Disorder. For women of color, that number rises even more. And it’s not just moms that are affected by mental health disorders. The whole family can feel it’s impact.
What Causes It?
Maternal Mental Health Disorders can be caused by a combination of psychological, genetic and social stressors which put a mother at risk for developing a mental health concern.
Of all the women who develop a maternal mental health disorder only 15% will receive treatment. Despite the alarming numbers of women affected, these disorders are not commonly or universally screened for. And even when mothers are screened, not all women are honest about how they are really feeling due to shame and/or stigma around mental health. There is that pressure to make it seem like we “have it all together.” Bottom line: moms are suffering in silence.
The Blue Dot Project is an initiative to combat the stigma of Maternal Mental Health Disorders. During the week of April 30th– May 6th, The BlueDotProject is hosting a week long social media campaign asking mothers to be open and honest about motherhood by posting (photos, images and/or text) for seven days which show the real face of motherhood—the light-heartedness as well as the struggles and not so glamorous times. This year’s theme is #RealMotherhood #NoShame. For more information visit TheBlueDotProject.
If you feel yourself struggling as a mom or new mom, please visit Postpartum Support International for local resources, trained professionals and support groups in your area. And please remember: You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help and support you will get better.