Here we are a week or so into May 2018 and all the necessary “Mental Health Month” hashtags have been trending – as they should be. Awareness is a good thing, conversation and discussion are two of the best ways to make true progress in a focused area. But, May isn’t just about mental health is it? The second Sunday of May has been observed in over forty countries as a day to celebrate Mother’s around the world for decades. The overlap of Mental Health Month and Mother’s Day give all of us a unique opportunity to deeply reflect upon maternal mental health. While, Mother’s Day tends to have all sorts of rosy connotations surrounding it, it’s important to remember that motherhood is no walk in the park and the last thing we want to do is put pressure on our moms to flaunt beamy smiles when they are actually struggling with their mental health.
Some Mom’s will Be Struggling with Post-Partum Depression this Mother’s Day
10 to 20 percent of new moms will experience post-partum depression after giving birth. A smaller percentage will experience a more serious illness known as post-partum psychosis. As common as PPD is in new moms, particularly first-time mom’s there remains a stigma about seeking help. The glamorization of “super mom’s” who manage abnormal and unhealthy amounts of stress while juggling their professional and family lives has not helped. Mother’s Days should not become yet another day mom’s feel they need to look like they are “keeping it all together”.
Some Mom’s will Be Struggling with Anxiety and OCD this Mother’s Day
Unfortunately, this issue doesn’t end with PPD. Recently academic institutions have conducted studies that screen for other mental health conditions in new moms as well. The results are sobering. A quote from a study of OCD in new moms in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine reads: “Prior population-based studies estimate the prevalence of OCD to be approximately 2-3%. We found much higher rates among women in the postpartum period…11% of women screened positive for OCD symptoms at 2 weeks postpartum. At 6 months postpartum almost half of those women had persistent symptoms, and an additional 5.4% had developed new OCD symptoms.”
A second study in 2013 from the American Academy of Pediatrics which screened for anxiety in new moms found: “A total of 192 (17%) of 1123 participating mothers had a positive baseline STAI; 62 (6%) had a positive EPDS… Postpartum state anxiety is a common, acute phenomenon during the maternity hospitalization that is associated with increased maternal health care utilization after discharge and reduced breastfeeding duration.”
And Some Mom’s will just be a Little Bit Overwhelmed this Mother’s Day
With statistics like those presented in the studies above it stands to reason that there are mothers out there right now struggling with post-partum depression, post-partum OCD and post-partum anxiety. Furthermore, some “moms” won’t yet be moms this Mother’s Day, despite exhausting and expensive reproductive endocrinology treatment — as they’ll still be struggling to conceive, perhaps surrounded by beaming moms being feted all around them, or so it seems, anyway.
Needless-to-say, some moms and moms-to-be may appreciate the grand overtures that are typically flaunted as the ‘ideal’ way to treat your Mom on Mother’s Day: flowers, balloons etc. others, may appreciate something simpler. Maybe they just want a day to themselves to enjoy 24 hours of not feeling pressured to ‘perform’. Perhaps this Mother’s Day we can focus on celebrating the Mom’s in our lives in the way that they want to be celebrated without all the expectations about what the day should hold.
Lastly, if you’re a mother and you’re trying to manage a mental health condition along with everything else in your life please consider seeking professional help. If you’re struggling to become a mother please consider our reproductive psychiatry services. For general information, please feel free to email our office at Amanda.Itzkoff@gmail.com. To schedule an appointment, call our offices at 917-609-4990.
Amanda Itzkoff MD