Let’s Talk About Maternal Mental Health
May 06 2022
Maternal mental health can feel like a big topic that’s hard to talk about, nuanced and obvious all at the same time.
What are things that contribute to the mental health of new moms?
Let’s think about the journey of motherhood. It can be filled with drastic physical changes for those who give birth, but it can also consist of emotional, mental, and relational changes and shifts.
The change in identity can be a huge part of the motherhood journey that we may not think about and that can contribute to an expectant or new mom’s mental health.
We’re used to a large part of our identity being defined by our careers, our hobbies, our social relationships, our possessions, but what happens to all those facets of our identities when we are trying to have a baby and becoming a mother?
How does the career go-getter coexist with the mother-to-be? What about the adventure-seeker who is ready for all experiences who now must think about her life in terms of motherhood?
It’s okay to be all, none, and fractions of ourselves at any given moment. We’re allowed to change our minds and how we think about ourselves with or without children. But it’s important to realize that layers and threads of our identity can be called into question as we approach and embark on the journey of motherhood.
For those who gave birth, the recovery period requires rethinking how your body moves, operates and looks, and for every new mother, the demanding schedule to meet a child’s needs requires you to quickly adapt and confront your own past needs and how they fit into this new life. It’s okay to be tired, sad, lost, and worried.
The other areas of a mother’s identity that may change include her sense of self and your relationships. While you may have perfected or been on your way to understanding the things that make you feel better; running, reading, going out with friends, etc., those tried-and-true self-soothing behaviors may need to be adjusted.
This is not to put a damper on motherhood or generalize everyone’s experience as a struggle, but to acknowledge the strength and adaptability someone must have when becoming a mother is a way to feel better and accept the present.
Feeling better through connection
The old saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise a baby,’ which can be true in terms of practical support and care for your bundle of joy, but it can also mean the village helping mothers feel supported, cared for, and validated.
How can new mothers feel supported and better if they’re struggling?
Through shifting identities, new sleep schedules, and recovery, new moms may need extra support and time to understand how to feel better if they’re struggling.
One of Togetherall’s Senior Clinicians emphasized the importance of connection for new mothers.
The biggest takeaway I would want new moms to think about in terms of their mental health is that there is power and comfort in connecting with others. It’s okay to reach out for support even if you are nervous about opening up.
We know that sometimes all we want is to talk to someone who has gone through similar experiences to us. We don’t even have to know the person who is comforting us to feel cared for but receiving advice and comfort from an expert in their mutual experience can help us feel validated and stronger.
Connecting with others can happen through joining parenting groups, talking with your doctor or joining virtual platforms and forums. Sharing lived experiences with others who understand can create a sense of belonging and relief. Navigating this new chapter of your life can come with ups, downs, and tension, so using others as pillars of support can help you lighten the load while you adjust to this new chapter in your life.
If you’ve been struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, stress or just difficult feelings, try joining Togetherall. Togetherall is a 24/7 online anonymous mental health community. Share your joy, stressors, and triumphs with others who understand.
If you feel like you need more support, please consult your general practitioner.
Here are additional resources that you may find useful as well.
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