For expecting and new mothers, there are plenty of things to worry about. What will my birthing experience be like? What kindof mother will I be? Will my vagina look like an egg plant after I give birth? One of the biggest concerns for expecting mothers is whether or not they will get Postpartum Depression, or other postpartum disorders like anxiety or OCD. These disorders are know collectively as Perinatal Mood Disorders or PMADs. For many women, the risk of experiencing a PMAD feels scary and out of their control. Like getting Jury Duty. Or adult acne. Or whether or not Jennifer Aniston will finally find a man who treats her right and sticks around already.
Luckily, we know more now than we ever have about what happens to a woman’s body, mind, and spirit after birth. And, we know that PMADs are highly treatable, diagnosable, and even preventable. There is a wealth of wonderful resources in the Denver, Broomfield, and Boulder area for new and expecting moms.
A great place to start in the naming and treating of PMADs is to know your risk factors BEFORE the baby comes. Check out the list below and if you think you may be at a higher risk, talk to your doctor and find a skilled, compassionate therapist or postpartum doula who is versed in the unique treatment of expecting and new mommas.
You May be at a high risk for a Perinatal Mood Disorder if:
Your hormones are already a pain in the ass. If you have a history of PMS symptoms or difficulty with birth control, or if you have previously experienced a Perninatal Mood Disorder, you are at a higher risk for experiencing hormone-related symptoms after birth. Talk to your doctor and therapist about your hormone history before the baby comes.
You've been-there-done-that with the whole mental health thing. A personal or family history of mental health disorders, addiction, or eating disorders can be a big risk factor for PMADs. If you don't know much about your family's mental health history, now’s the time to learn more! Ask a safe, insightful parent, sibling, or extended family member to reflect on your family’s history of mental health, especially maternal mental health. And make sure to share your own mental health history with your family, friends, and doctor.
You are experiencing extra financial or job related stress. We all get stressed by our money situation and our jobs, but new or severe stress in these areas makes it extra hard to experience a blissful postpartum period. If cash feels exceptionally tight, check with your local social services to see if you can get extra food or income assistance.
You don't have a support system. The postpartum period is the time to call in ALL the favors, and then some. If you don't have a healthy, extended support system, or if you recently moved away from your network, you may find the stressors of the postpartum period especially difficult.
You are experiencing relationship stress. One of the key factors in preventing and treating PMADs is having a supportive and caring partner. Conflict and disconnect in a partnership can make the postpartum period especially difficult. Don't have a partner? Make sure to let your friends and family know that you will be asking for lots of help in the months to come.
Your pregnancy was unplanned or complicated. An "uncomplicated" and welcome pregnancy is difficult enough on it's own. An added layer of surprise, or complications during your pregnancy, can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and resentment that can carry over into the postpartum experience.
You have a history of previous trauma(s). A history of physical or sexual abuse, exposure to violence, pregnancy loss, hospital or IVF trauma, or any other form of PTSD can be a big risk factor for expecting and new mammas. However, there are many safe, effective methods for working through and moving beyond past traumas. Find a skilled therapist to begin your work on past traumas before the baby comes.
You have a Type A Personality. Ladies, if you are saying things like, "Nothing will change when this baby comes," you are living in an awesome, but wildly inaccurate fantasy about motherhood. Many things that you could once control-your time, your body, your emotions, your sleep-will be much, much more difficult to manage when your new baby comes home. If you identify as a type A person who likes to be in control, begin to accept and name the massive changes that are coming, and reflect on what you need to do in preparation.
You Don't Have a Postpartum Plan. Women who set up a plan to get their own emotional and physical needs addressed post-baby can avoid or decrease the symptoms of a PMAD. Talk to a trained professional about how to set up a postpartum plan, and what types of things you should consider while planning.
There are many healthy, effective ways to help prevent and lessen the symptoms of a Perinatal Mood Disorder. Before your baby comes is the best time to take a pro-active approach to supporting your own mental health, which in turn, helps create a healthy environment for your new baby.
To learn more about how counseling can help create a more peaceful, healthy postpartum period, call today for a free consultation.
Jane Thatcher Hahn is the founder of Grit Therapy. She lives in Denver and engages the community as a social worker, therapist, creative arts instructor, and wellness enthusiast.