How You Feel Matters:
How to care for your mental health during conception, pregnancy, and postpartum
Bridget Cross, LCSW, PMH-C
Becoming pregnant and having a baby can be one of the most exciting and joy-filled times in any parent’s life. However, it is so normal to also feel stress, sadness, fear, overwhelm, anger, or anxiety during this immense transition.
Though these emotional responses are common, they can also sometimes put you at risk for a mental health issue called a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (PMAD). One in 5 moms will experience a PMAD during pregnancy or postpartum (as well as 1 in 10 partners). Among BIPOC moms, that number increases to 1 in 3. PMADs such as pregnancy and postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD are considered a major public health issue. In the US, postpartum depression is the #1 complication of childbirth.
But here’s the good news: PMADs are completely treatable. With the help of your medical provider, and a maternal mental health specialist, as well as an effective support network, you can recover and thrive. If you’re struggling or worried about how you’re feeling, please know you are not alone. There is help out there and how you feel matters.
One of the best things you can do to prevent PMADs is to create a plan to support your mental health before you conceive. However, if you’re already pregnant or if you’ve already had your baby, don’t worry! You’ve come to the right place. It is never too late to learn about your mental health and take definitive steps to find support, connection, and nurturing as you navigate new motherhood.
In this new weekly blog series, I’ll be highlighting some simple ideas for tuning into and supporting your mental health during this season of life. Please feel free to share and check back next week for more!
1. Find a support group, even if you don’t feel you need it yet.
Connecting with others who are in it with you is one of the best ways to take care of yourself as you journey through conception, pregnancy, and postpartum. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, options are limited, but a growing number of wonderful support groups are now available online:
- Nurture Community Support is a local support group for new moms during baby’s first year. We explore topics such as health and wellness, relationships, mood changes, bonding with your baby, body image, sexuality, and more, all within a safe, non-judgmental space. Typically we meet at the Birth Center but for now we will be meeting on Zoom. Meetings resume on August 8 – register here!
- Local doula Ann Carroll of Doula Deliveries offers pregnancy yoga, parent/baby yoga classes, childbirth education, and more for families who are trying to conceive, pregnant, or in the postpartum period.
- Postpartum Support International (PSI) offers free online support groups almost every day of the week for pregnant and postpartum moms, for miscarriage and loss, for military families, for dads and partners, for NICU families, and for Black mamas.
- The Bloom Foundation offers a free support group for pregnant and new moms 2 days a week.
- Honey Space for Moms in Michigan offers many virtual groups for moms and parents of babies and kids of all ages.
- The Motherhood Center of NY offers several groups and classes for pregnant and new moms – all of which provide an opportunity for connection with other parents.
- PostpartumDads.org offers a support group for dads and partners during the perinatal period.