In honor of mental health awareness month, we’re focusing on an important topic that doesn’t get discussed nearly enough: maternal mental health. There’s no denying that stress, anxiety, and other mental health struggles are common during pregnancy and after childbirth. In fact, research shows that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of women experience mental health challenges at some point during the time between pregnancy and the year after giving birth. These challenges can range from mild to severe and can present in various ways, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and more.
During this time between pregnancy and a year after childbirth, somewhere around 15 percent of women experience depression and anxiety. New moms are typically extremely busy, tired, and under a tremendous amount of stress and pressure.
But throw a pandemic into the mix and the collective weight of these mental health issues is heavier than ever before. It’s not nearly as easy as before to get support from others, and this can leave many feeling isolated, overwhelmed, and anxious.
You may be determined to cope on your own without seeking help, but it’s important to address these mental health challenges rather than ignore them. Failing to address these mental health challenges can have serious consequences in terms of your health, including increased risk of suicide, as well as a negative impact on your baby’s development.
If you’re feeling extra stressed and overwhelmed these days, you’re not alone. Loneliness and isolation have become more common during the pandemic due to social distancing requirements and can even contribute to additional stress and anxiety. You may feel more afraid or sad than usual or notice that you’ve been having trouble concentrating. Some people are noticing changes to their appetite, while others are having trouble sleeping. Stress can also lead to worsening of chronic health conditions, and can contribute to physical reactions like pain, stomach issues, and rashes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a number of key ways to cope with this pandemic related stress. Here’s what they suggest:
- Take time off from consuming the news and other forms of media, including social media.
- Treat your body with care. This might include meditation, breath work, eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and keeping alcohol intake low. Also, stay up to date on routine, preventive health measures like vaccinations (including the COVID-19 vaccine) and screenings that are recommended by your healthcare provider.
- Give yourself time to relax and unwind.
- Spend time connecting with other individuals and talking about things that are bothering you. Remember that even in situations where social distancing is necessary, you can still connect with others online, over the phone, or on social media.
If you’re struggling with mental health challenges and need help, reach out to a healthcare 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.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.