The experience of pregnancy and becoming a mother is one of the most miraculous and joyous parts of family life. This also can be one of the most physically, mentally and emotionally challenging times for a mother. For some mothers, the difficulty is more intense, lasts longer, and is actually a condition called “Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder.” Perinatal (which means during and after pregnancy) depression and anxiety affects up to 20% of all new mothers. It is the most common complication of pregnancy, and when untreated, can have serious effects on mothers, children and families.
“I was so happy, excited and ready to become a mother. When I got postpartum depression I kept it to myself for a long time because I thought it would go away on its own and I didn’t want to be viewed as a bad mother. It was a really hard time for my family. It wasn’t until I asked for help and realized that it wasn’t my fault that things truly started getting better. Looking back, I wish I had reached out for help sooner.”
Briana Patterson, Chico
Is it Baby Blues or something more serious? Answering yes to one or more of the following questions may indicate Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. For the complete screening tool, visit https://psychology-tools.com/epds/
I have not been able to laugh and see the funny side of things.
I haven’t looked forward with enjoyment to things.
I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong.
I’ve been anxious or worried for no good reason.
I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping.
I have felt sad or miserable.
The thought of harming myself or my baby has occurred to me.
Mothers Strong is a collaboration of local agencies, businesses and champion moms who are concerned that local families may not have access to the help and support needed to overcome this treatable condition. The group first formed in the spring of 2014, and has been working hard to identify and expand local resources for mothers, as well as bring education and awareness to the issue in Butte County.
Here are a few things Mothers Strong would like for all families to know about Perinatal Depression and Anxiety:
- If you think you or someone you love may be having a particularly difficult time during pregnancy and/or after baby is born, it’s important to talk about it. Talk to your loved ones about new motherhood and your feelings.
- Depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy occurs more than most people realize.
- New mothers can also experience Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Panic and Psychosis Disorders.
“The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and there is help available for you. Some mothers fear that if they talk about the thoughts that they are having they will be judged as bad mothers, this is not true and by speaking up and asking for help they are helping both themselves and their babies at the same time. Talk to someone, even if it means reaching out to a close family member or friend first who can support you and help connect you with other resources such as a mothers support group or a private therapist.”
Gail Garcia LCSW
Northern Valley Indian Health
Children’s Health Center
While this may sound alarming, it’s important to know that these conditions are common and are treatable with the right help and support. There are many ways mothers can find help, and the first step is to talk to your doctor about Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Sometimes relief can be as simple as insuring the thyroid gland is working properly, increasing intake of B vitamins, and insuring mom is getting adequate support, sleep and nourishment. In other instances, mothers may need to try some different approaches, such therapeutic counseling with a specially trained practitioner, physician prescribed medication, attending a specialized support group, or other less conventional remedies.
Even though Perinatal Depression and Anxiety is the most common complication of pregnancy, mothers can experience shame and guilt because they are feeling terrible during a time that is supposed to be joyful. If you or someone you love is experiencing depression and anxiety, it is important to understand that:
- It is not your fault
- You are not alone
- With the right care and treatment, you will get better
Support from friends and family, and especially from other supportive mothers can be very beneficial to a struggling mom. Mothers are encouraged to find social supports within the community. In Butte County, we are fortunate to have many amazing groups such as the Chico Mothers Club, the Paradise Moms Spot, MOPS, library story time, LaLeche league, and many other local groups that support mothers and families. There are specialized support groups at The Nest in Chico and the Family Resource Center in Paradise where moms can connect with other mothers who have experienced perinatal depression and anxiety. There are also online blogs, forums and hotlines that can be very helpful for mothers too. Moms and families can call 2-1-1 to get connected to local support services or visit www.helpcentral.org/mothersstrong for a complete list of local and online resources.
If you would like to join the Mothers Strong effort, please visit Mothers Strong on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how you can help.
The NEST-S approach
S- Sleep and Rest
T- Time for yourself
“Coping with Depression During Pregnancy and Following the Birth- by the Reproductive Mental Health Program in BC © 2011.”