In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re focusing on maternal mental health. There’s no denying that stress, anxiety, and other mental health struggles are common during pregnancy and after childbirth. Research shows that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of women experience mental health challenges between pregnancy and the year after giving birth. These challenges can range from mild to severe and can present in various ways. Signs include depression, anxiety, birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more. New moms are typically extremely busy, tired, and under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure.
Maternal Mental Health
Shockingly, about 75 percent of mental health issues go untreated because most women don’t seek help. Women of color are more likely to experience these conditions and are the least likely to seek help. Unfortunately, when the topic of mental health is brought up, there’s often a stigma around those who talk about it – especially with new and expecting mothers.
At Women’s Health Arizona, we encourage our providers to screen women for mood disorders before, during and after pregnancy to improve patient outcomes.
You may be determined to cope on your own but it’s important to address mental health challenges. Failing to do so can have serious consequences in terms of your health. Consequences include increased risk of suicide, as well as a negative impact on your baby’s development. Death by suicide and overdose are leading causes of postpartum death, according to MMRC data. Nearly 100% of these conditions respond to early interventions and/or treatment so don’t be afraid to reach out for support.
The Pandemic and Mental Health
Although we have entered the control phase of the pandemic, the aftereffects still persist. The collective weight of these mental health issues is heavier than ever before for new moms. Loneliness and isolation became more common during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements. This contributed to additional stress and anxiety. Many women felt more afraid or sad than usual or noticed that they had trouble concentrating. Some women noticed changes to their appetite, while others had trouble sleeping. Stress can also lead to worsening of chronic health conditions, and can contribute to physical reactions like pain, stomach issues, and rashes.
How Gender Affects Mental Health
Anxiety and depression are more common in females because their bodies and mental health are affected differently during the various phases of a woman’s life: Adolescence, the reproductive years, perimenopause, and menopause.
Furthermore, as hormones increase and your new arrival consumes you, the chances of mental health struggles can increase.
Pregnancy and Emotional Health
Pregnancy brings with it a range of emotions, from elation to apprehension about taking care of a new little life. Your emotional state may also be all over the place because your hormones are almost in a constant state of fluctuation, as your body is taken over by the baby. Your Women’s Health Arizona provider is available for medical needs but also for emotional support to help you make this a great experience in your life.
When you come in to meet with your physician, emotional health, your thoughts, fears and questions are always something we openly discuss. In fact, it’s part of the pregnancy process that we encourage communication on all levels.
Talk to your ObGyn provider about ways to enhance your overall state of emotional health during these next 9 months. If you spend time focusing on ways to make yourself feel more calm and relaxed, you will be a better place mentally to sail through your pregnancy and all its related physical changes and experiences. If you feel down, anxious, scared or have questions about your emotional health, please reach out to your provider.
Tips To Improve Your Mental and Emotional Health
- Engage in mindful moments.
- Limit yourself from consuming too much news and other forms of media, including social media.
- Spend time connecting with other individuals and talking about things that are bothering you. Remember that connection can take place in-person, online, over the phone, or on social media.
- Make time to de-stress: Give yourself time to relax and unwind. Try to do something every day to take care of your mental health, emotional health, and to treat your body with care. This might include meditation, breath work, yoga, eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and abstaining from alcohol. Or, you can simply kick your feet up for a while.
- Stay up to date on routine, preventive health measures like vaccinations and screenings that are recommended by your ObGyn provider.
If you’re struggling with mental health challenges and need help, reach out to your ObGyn provider. If you have thoughts of suicide or feel like you may be in a crisis, it’s extremely important to seek help. This could mean calling 911, or reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Lifeline Crisis Chat. The lifeline offers free support 24/7.
Women’s Health Arizona Is Here for You
We care about your physical, mental, and emotional health and we’re here for you every step of the way. If you’re experiencing symptoms, or intrusive thoughts that interfere with your daily life, know that it’s okay to ask for help. You’re not to blame, it’s normal, and you can reach out at any time to receive help and guidance.
If your symptoms last longer than two weeks, please contact your ObGyn provider for support and treatment. You can request an appointment online or give us a call.
- Clinical Depression: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
- Depression Among Stay-At-Home Moms is Real—And You’re Not Alone
- WHA Physician Sheds Light on Maternal Mental Health at National Forum
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.