May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month; Women’s Health Month
The last year has been challenging because of the pandemic, but even more so for pregnant women and their loved ones. May is National Maternal Depression Awareness and Women’s Health Month. Trying to stay emotionally healthy is important during pregnancy and the postpartum period, but even more so as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly a fifth of women struggle with anxiety and depression and will continue to experience symptoms throughout their lives. During pregnancy, women are more at risk for experiencing anxiety and depression than at any other time in their lives, which can continue on postpartum due to the challenges of motherhood and hormonal changes. If you are pregnant or have given birth recently and are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, you can benefit from taking steps to prioritize your mental health.
The pandemic has increased anxiety and depression symptoms in many, which is understandable given how our lives have been altered in the past year. People are generally social by nature and we are not accustomed to not having regular social contact, resulting in our mental health suffering. Pregnant and new mothers have an additional set of challenges if certain support measures, such as family or doulas, are not available to help. Worrying about becoming sick, a loved one becoming sick, or transmitting the virus to the baby can trigger stress and anxiety. Stay-at-home orders, hospitals limiting birth support persons, and rethinking expectations about the birth experience can also be stressful, leaving pregnant and new mothers vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression is important for taking the first step towards taking control and working towards recovery or alleviation of symptoms. Sign and symptoms may include:
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping more or less
- Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Constant fatigue
Your mental health is important, even during a pandemic. Working on your emotional health is good for the well-being of yourself and your family as it reduces feelings of being out-of-control. There are steps you can begin to take to combat your symptoms:
Limit Media Intake
Time resting or late-night feedings might have you watching TV or scrolling through your phone more. Try not to watch the news before bed or right when you wake up. When you do watch, listen or read the news, use a reliable source that does not sensationalize the news as it can increase feelings of anxiety. Limiting time on social media if your feeds are full of negativity can also cause increased stress and anxiety. Choose an amount of time that feels good to you to check-in if you need to.
Snuggle Your Baby
Studies have shown that holding your baby can help decrease the effects of postpartum depression. This practice is good for the baby, too, as babies who are frequently held show better physical and emotional health than those that are held less.
Overthinking, ruminating, or avoiding problems can increase our levels of stress. Give yourself space to feel what you are feeling or talk them over with someone you trust. It is okay to feel stressed about the changes the pandemic has brought, especially if they have affected your finances or routine. You cannot control the pandemic, but you can control how you react.
Try to Sleep
While it can be hard to prioritize sleep with a new baby, try the best you can to establish a bedtime routine and maintain a routine throughout the day. It’s cliché, but napping when the baby naps can truly help. Don’t try to clean or stay awake during the nap if you need more sleep. Long-term sleep deprivation has profound effects on our mental health.
Choose One Goal Everyday
Challenge yourself to complete one goal each day, even if it’s something as simple as emptying the dishwasher or taking a short walk (getting outside is beneficial as well!). Feeling as though you accomplished something each day will improve your outlook and mood.
If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. A trained mental health professional can help guide you towards improving your mental health, even during the pandemic. Our office is seeing patients remotely at this time.