Mother’s Day is quickly approaching, and the occasion is sure to be celebrated with greeting cards, flowers, and other thoughtful gifts. It’s a great time to reach out to the mothers you know to see how they’re doing and remind them how important they are. Moms certainly deserve the attention and appreciation! There is so much hard work and love that goes into raising children.
It’s also important to understand that women experience pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood differently. Unfortunately, for some, the physical and mental toll before, during, and after pregnancy is painfully high. About 20% of women suffer from maternal depression or anxiety, birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder, or other maternal mental health disorders (MMHD). Mental health issues can be attributed to a wide range of factors, including:
- Changes in lifestyle, bodies, and hormones. The stress of major life changes during and after pregnancy makes women more susceptible to mental illness. At the same time, they’re experiencing hormonal changes that can be physically and mentally challenging.
- Sleep deprivation. Many women struggle to get adequate sleep during pregnancy, a situation that only gets worse once the baby arrives. Lack of sleep is dangerous for anybody and can negatively impact a person’s mood and mental health.
- Societal expectations. Society expects a lot from mothers, regardless of whether they work outside the home or stay at home. Many people unfairly judge mothers for how they care for their babies and raise their children, which only exacerbates the guilt and worry that already burdens so many.
- Lack of support. While expectations of mothers are sky-high, support at work and at home is often inadequate. Changes in policy and attitudes around gender roles are moving in the right direction, but there’s a long way to go to balance the scales.
- Family or personal history of mental illness. Women who have experienced a mental health condition, or have a family history of it, may be at a higher risk for maternal mental health disorders. A recent research review found that women with a family history of psychiatric diagnosis were, on average, twice as likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression compared to women with no such family history.
- Grief. Miscarriage and stillbirth can lead to anxiety, depression, and PTSD in women that can last for years and continue even after the birth of healthy children.
Supporting maternal mental health
Maternal mental health is important to mothers, partners, families, and entire communities. We all have a role in supporting mothers and normalizing the mental health struggles they often face. Maternal Mental Health Week is a week-long campaign that began on Monday, May 1. It’s an opportunity for all of us to do our part to raise awareness, advocate for women, combat stigma, and help people access the resources necessary for recovery.
Far too many maternal mental health disorders go undiagnosed or untreated. Mothers—and their children—deserve better. Women can recover from maternal mental health disorders and, in some cases, even prevent them. It starts with better research, education, outreach, and screening.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.