Why Maternal Mental Health Day? I know you are thinking that we have a day for everything. There is Earth Day, and Grandparent’s Day, and Secretary’s Day. Then there is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Only this day is not a Hallmark Holiday. Maybe there are people sending out cards, and having barbecues, but this day is about:
- bringing awareness to a serious crisis in our culture
- honoring the mothers who have struggled and are struggling
- removing the shame and stigma surrounding mental health
Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) are the number one complication of childbirth!! Yes, you heard that right. If this is so, then why aren’t providers doing routine screenings in pregnancy? Why is there a shortage of trained professionals? How come nobody is talking about this with expectant mothers and fathers and caregivers?
Great questions. Of course, as always, there are many layers to this. In the United States childbirth has become a routine medical event. Women are herded like sheep through the system; often in large practices where routinized care is the norm. Not all obstetricians or midwives take the time to ask a woman how she is feeling. Although there is more attention paid to pregnant women, once the baby comes out it is all about the baby.
There is a screening tool available for care providers. Doulas have access to this as well, though doulas do not diagnose. In addition, Postpartum Support International (PSI) has training available for professionals, and peer support training.
We need to be asking women how they are feeling, throughout the pregnancy and beyond. We need to be asking them about their birth experience, and what kind of support they have.
I was so excited to see the new ACOG Bulletin on Postpartum Care. It actually says that the care women receive should be individualized, and women should be seen by their care provider at three weeks, and not six weeks. There is so much more. It is a great start to shifting the conversation, and the care for women.
This is not magic bullet, by a long shot. The sad part is that not all women have access to care, and in the United States we do not have enough trained professionals that know how to support a woman who is suffering from a mood disorder.
What can you do?
- Talk about this issue
- Share information on social media
- Be a support for women
- Become a trained professional or peer support
Let’s celebrate women and mother’s, those that have struggled, are struggling, and are at risk. Let’s educate others and remove the stigma of mental illness. It will not go away by ignoring its existence.
Only together can we make a difference and have an impact on creating a shift.