Below is an article I wrote for Charleston Mom Blog. Feel free to check out the article and other information at their website Here
“I feel: angry/irritable, anxious, hopeless, powerless/alone, so TIRED, out of control, scared/disconnected, so overwhelmed, like I’m never going to feel like myself again, like no one understands, like I’m a bad mother, like I’m going crazy, I have no patience left for anything anymore, like each day is so long-there is no end in sight, like I never should have had this baby. This is not what I expected.”
These are just some of the statements that moms have made about adjusting to life with new baby. These statements are 100% NORMAL!!!!
In the US, approximately 1 in 5 women will experience a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). It is the most common complication from pregnancy. This could happen at any time during her pregnancy or up to a year after delivery. Most symptoms show up within weeks/months after a woman gives birth. PMADs are typically not resolved without treatment and can last years while having long term effects on the child, mom, and family.
“Baby Blues” happen because of the hormonal changes that occur 2 days to 2 weeks after a woman gives birth. This is completely normal and up to 80% of women experience this. If a woman is experiencing sadness, crying spells, hopelessness, guilt, panic, irritability, and being overwhelmed after 2 weeks after the baby is born, then she should speak with someone trained to diagnose and treat PMADs. If a woman is experiencing thoughts of wanting to harm herself or others or has any delusions/hallucinations, then she needs to seek medical attention immediately. I tell mothers all the time that this is not your fault. You are not alone. With treatment, you will be well.
The stigma of mental health is a huge barrier for women starting treatment. They are afraid that they are going to be treated differently once people find out. They may have been told that “our family doesn’t ask for help; we handle these things privately.” Women tell me all the time that they thought that the symptoms would eventually go away and they just needed to hang on a little bit longer. Some women are afraid that they will lose custody of their child(ren) and they will be found to be an unfit parent. The reality is that more than 20% of mothers have experienced a PMAD. PMADs extremely treatable. Some women have experienced relief of symptoms in a matter of weeks and full remission is possible.
Another obstacle to treatment is finding appropriate treatment. Treatment can be support groups, talking with a therapist, medication management, or (most effective) a combination of the three. I work with Postpartum Support International (PSI). They offer phone consultations, online support groups, and they have state coordinators who will assist you in finding either a therapist or group close to you. Support groups with other moms are a great resource. There are some support groups that are free and anyone can join. PSI also provides resources for dads, partners, and family members to support mom and seek treatment.
You can reach out to your OB, family doctor, your child’s pediatrician, doulas, lactation consultants, hospital staff, yoga instructors, faith leaders, and others moms to ask if they know of someone who you can talk to. Some providers may not understand the severity of PMADs and may downplay your symptoms/experiences as “adjustment to being a new mom.” If you feel something is not right, please seek help!
Psychology Today is a website that lists mental health professionals in your area. You can search for a provider who fits your needs. Postpartum Support Charleston is a fantastic local resource that can provide phone support, mom groups, and even provide a list of therapists who treat PMADS. I absolutely encourage you to have a conversation with the provider to make sure they have received specific training in PMADs. Ask about their training and get their opinion on how they treat PMADs- including their thoughts on taking medication while pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
I can write an entire article about the benefits and barriers to using insurance. If you decide that you want to use your insurance for therapy, please be aware that your provider is required to give you a mental health diagnosis that will follow you the rest of your life and that the insurance company can dictate the treatment/number of sessions you receive even if you still need additional services. Some insurance companies do not provide mental health coverage. If you would like to check this information for yourself, you can call the customer service number that is listed on the back of the insurance card to find a provider in your area. This information is also available online usually through the patient portal.
I realize that not everyone has the ability to meet with me face to face when I am in my office. One of the services that I provide is telehealth to anyone who lives in South Carolina. This is a secure, HIPAA compliant way to provide counseling through your phone or computer (if you can stream a video on Netflix, you can do telehealth). I do provide the traditional face to face individual, couples, and/or family counseling at my office in Summerville.
What happens in therapy? The first appointment is really a time for us to learn about each other. I have found it helpful to get some information from my clients before the intake appointment. I provide my clients access to an online portal where my practice paperwork is located. I also ask them to complete demographic information and provide some screening tools. During the first appointment I ask about your birth story, family/person history of mental illness, past/current medications, sleep habits, and support system. I will observe your body language and if you allow me, I will speak with family members/your doctor to see what they have noticed about you. If we both agree that we would like to go forward with therapy sessions, we can create a treatment plan and schedule follow up sessions. Some women may need to meet more frequently at first, then as symptoms resolve we can meet less often.
There is hope for women who are experiencing a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Treatment is extremely effective! PMADs do not discriminate. This is not your fault and you are not alone. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms, please reach out!