May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month worldwide, and today kicks off the May Campaign (May 2 - 6, 2016). The goal of the May Campaign is to increase knowledge about and awareness of the serious and devastating emotional complications that many women experience during pregnancy and after the birth of a child.
When a woman is pregnant people are so eager to chat, engage and support her. Doors are held open by strangers. Family and friends gather to shower the expectant mother and her baby to be. Couples take babymoons to celebrate their time together as a couple and the new beginning that lies ahead. However, once baby is born, it’s not uncommon for mothers to be left behind while their new baby becomes the focus of attention— theirs and everyone else’s.
This year the May Campaign is focusing on the importance of shifting the conversation from baby back to mom and encouraging you/me/us to #AskHer about her mental health. Ask the mothers you love and care for about: How are you sleeping? How are you eating? How are you feeling?
Why should you #AskHer?
You might be wondering why it's so important to ask her. One in seven women experience postpartum depression. There are many risks to both mom and baby if postpartum depression or anxiety goes untreated, including: a lower quality of life for mom, a decreased ability to function at home and at work, recurrent depression and suicide. Yes, suicide!
An infant with a mother whose depression goes untreated is at risk for an insecure attachment with their mother and delays in cognitive development. These are significant risks to both mom and baby.
But it doesn’t stop there. According to research, half of all men whose partners have postpartum depression are depressed themselves. Additional risks include a decrease in care of other children in the home and an increase in overall stress and discord within the family unit.
How to help a postpartum mom you’re worried about:
If you’re not sure if what she’s experiencing is part of the normal postpartum adjustment to motherhood or something more serious, this article can help you learn about 3 Differences Between Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues. If you’re worried about her, below are three things you can do to provide support.
- Speak Up! Share your concern for her. Most struggling moms are relieved to hear there’s actually something wrong. Feeling so overwhelmed, it’s difficult to imagine how they’ll manage if what they’re experiencing is truly normal. This article here talks more about why it’s important for YOU to say something.
- Call her local chapter of Postpartum Support International. You can get her connected with the warmline, which can provide her with referrals to trained therapists and local support groups. There are even online groups if needed. If you can call with her, that’s even better.
- Be there for her. Listen to her. Hold her baby so she can shower, or rest. Make her food. Clean her house. Walk her dog. Fold her laundry. Listen.
At the end of the day, please don't forget to #AskHer. Ask the mothers you love and care for about their mental health: How are you sleeping? How are you eating? How are you feeling? If you suspect that you or someone you love is struggling with a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, reach out for help. Rachel Rabinor, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice. She sees women struggling with their transition to and through motherhood in her private practice in San Diego. She also offers in-home counseling to help ease this transition See above for other San Diego and national resources.