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  • Coco Zhu

Mindfull X Shield - Understanding Motherhood and Mental Health

Each year in the United States, 1 in 5 women suffer from a mental health or substance use disorder during the perinatal period, the time spanning pregnancy, and the year after birth.

What is happening here? In light of Mother’s Day last week, we would like to discuss the mental health challenges faced by many mothers during their stages of motherhood. Those challenges are often neglected by society, and, consequently, lack awareness and proper, timely treatment. Motherhood is often associated with the notion of being rewarding and exciting, but it is time for us to understand this stage of life more comprehensively. 

Post-Pandemic: the Status Quo

Before the pandemic, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) affected one in five women. During the pandemic, these rates skyrocketed to 50-70%. This surge is attributed to increased isolation, lack of support, and heightened stress levels that perinatal women face. Researchers have highlighted that the pandemic exacerbated stress related to family care, childcare, and education. Mothers, often the family organizers, managed these stressors while dealing with isolation from their support networks. For essential worker moms, the stress was intensified by the risks associated with their jobs and limited childcare options.

Common Maternal Mental Health Issues

During the early stages of motherhood, the profound stress and worry about their babies' health have significantly impacted new mothers. Moving away from lockdowns has introduced new stressors as mothers strive to choose what they value rather than conforming to societal expectations. This period of reevaluation can be stressful as mothers try to balance their own needs with those of their families. To understand the problem better, here is a comprehensive list of maternal mental health issues that have become increasingly prevalent:

  1. Postpartum Depression: Persistent sadness, low energy, changes in appetite, and difficulty bonding with the baby shortly after giving birth.

  2. Perinatal Anxiety: Profound stress and worry about the health and wellness of the baby, especially in the context of COVID-19.

  3. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors related to keeping the baby safe from illness.

  4. Isolation and Loneliness: The pandemic has forced many mothers to stay home, isolating them from their supportive social circles and increasing feelings of loneliness.

  5. Financial Stress: The ongoing financial strain from the pandemic adds to the mental load of mothers.

  6. Identity Shift: The transition to motherhood can cause a significant shift in a woman’s identity, affecting her mental health.

  7. Guilt: Mothers often feel guilty about not meeting personal or societal expectations, particularly regarding self-care, parenting decisions, and balancing work and family life.

  8. Burnout: Constantly managing multiple roles and responsibilities without adequate support can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

What Can We Do to Help?

Creating Supportive Environments

Support from family members can make a significant difference. Simple acts like initiating family reading time, ensuring regular alone time for mothers, and facilitating therapy sessions can alleviate stress. Clear communication about needs and boundaries within the family is essential.

Professional Help and Community Support

If distress interferes with daily tasks, seeking professional help is vital. Postpartum Support International provides connections to perinatal mental health specialists. Joining support groups or parenting communities offers mothers a sense of camaraderie and shared experiences, which can be incredibly reassuring.

Checking In On Moms

This Mother’s Day, and beyond, take extra time to check in on the moms in your life. Ask them how they're feeling and offer words of reassurance. Let them know it's okay to ask for help and that they are not alone in their struggles. Acknowledging and validating their experiences can make a significant difference.

Motherhood is a transformative journey filled with both joy and challenges. Prioritizing maternal mental health is essential for the well-being of mothers and their families. By fostering supportive environments, encouraging self-care, and seeking professional help when needed, we can help mothers navigate this journey with resilience and strength. This Mother's Day, let's commit to supporting the mental health of the moms in our lives, ensuring they receive the care and understanding they deserve.

Writer: Coco Zhu




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