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May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness

May marks Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month and a time to focus on the importance of mental health during pregnancy and the time after birth.

Why is this important?

one in five
  • 1 in 5 new and expecting mothers / birthing parents experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD)
  • PMADs are the number 1 complication associated with childbirth
  • 80% of all PMAD cases go undetected and undiagnosed
  • PMADs are the leading cause of maternal mortality

With one in five mothers meeting the criteria for a mental health disorder during or after pregnancy, this means that statistically most of us have had a friend, a sister, a mother, or co-worker who have suffered. However, the research shows us that the barriers to talking about these issues (ie embarrassment, shame, guilt) get in the way. Additionally, many women report that they were unaware of the many different ways that maternal mental health problems can present.

PMADs can present in different ways

Depression during pregnancy and postpartum (PPD)

PPD is the hallmark diagnosis in maternal mental health. A mother with PPD might experience feelings of anger, sadness, irritability, lack of interest in the baby, guilt, shame, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness, and sometimes thoughts of harming herself or her baby.

Anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum (PPA)

A mother with PPA might experience extreme worry or concern, often over the health or safety of the baby or over their own abilities as a mother.

Pregnancy or postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

A mother with pregnancy or postpartum OCD might have repetitive and unwanted thoughts or images (obsessions) in addition to developing the need to do something repeatedly (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by the thoughts.

Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

A mother with postpartum PTSD might have experienced a traumatic or frightening childbirth or past trauma that was exacerbated by childbirth. PTSD symptoms often include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the urge to avoid things related to the event.

Bipolar Mood Disorders

Many women with Bipolar Disorder are actually diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy or postpartum. A mother with Bipolar Disorder might experience severe depression or symptoms of mania.

Postpartum Psychosis

A mother with postpartum psychosis might hear voices or see images that are not there. They may have beliefs that are untrue and experience distrust towards loved ones. They may also have episodes of memory loss, confusion, and impaired mental status.

Tell your truth about motherhood

group of women

The more we share our stories, the more we normalize how common it is to struggle from depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD and psychosis in the perinatal period. When we tell the truth about our own motherhood journey – we give others permission to do the same. We send the message that it’s OK to not be OK – and that there is help and hope.

Let’s change the motherhood conversation by sharing our PMAD truths. Throughout the month of May, we will be collecting stories, pictures, videos, songs, drawings, phrases, poems- anything that represents your personal PMAD journey. Together we can create a movement that aims to normalize PMADs – and encourages all perinatal women to be open and honest about the hardest parts of becoming a mother.

Join the movement, submit your story!

Submit Your Story

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Resources specific to maternal mental health

Postpartum Support International

The National Perinatal Association

Every Mother Counts

4th Trimester Arizona

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