There’s a quote that says “Being a mama is worth all the exhaustion. It’s worth every early wake up, every sleepless night, every pile of washing, every mess. All those hard days are all worth it. Because nothing in life feels as incredible as those little arms wrapped around you. Nothing beats hearing your child say, ‘I love you!’ No matter how hard it gets, it is all worth it just to be their mama.”
While this quote can definitely hit on the heartstrings, it can also be incredibly dangerous for a new mom battling more than the “baby blues.” Did you know that statistically 1 in 7 moms can develop postpartum depression (PPD)? According to the NIH, maternal brain response and behavior are compromised in PPD. A study done back in 2006 found that as many as half of new mothers go undiagnosed, making the average of those suffering even more than we know.
March of Dimes knows “the maternal and infant health crisis is not straightforward with one solution. It takes strategic and collaborative efforts in different areas to ultimately benefit thousands of moms, babies, and families every day.” This is one reason it’s so important to address the mental state and health of mom immediately after giving birth and beyond.
Real Stories from Real Moms
“I had this enormous feeling of being inadequate, which was exacerbated by not having any family close by to help. I thought I was just having a tough time transitioning from working full time to being a stay at home mom. But I realized after having a second child that I had (undiagnosed) PPD when I felt completely different than I did with my previous pregnancy and birth.”
– Memphis Mom, Colleen
“I had PPD after my second child. I just couldn’t stop crying. I cried at silly things and serious things and basically over nothing at all. I would cry non-stop for what felt like no reason. My dad also died the same day my son was born, so I was also processing my grief while also trying to experience his birth. I just sat there, breathing then crying. Over and over.”
– Memphis Mom, Cara
Noticing Something is off — Signs that moms may be experiencing PPD
“I realized something was off when I wasn’t sleeping well. I was extremely emotional about every little (and big) thing. I was constantly on my phone and not resting or focusing on my new baby. At one point I heard voices in my head. I contacted my doctor several times and could not get in touch with them. When I finally did, they brushed it all off as the “baby blues.” I ended up hospitalized for three weeks, not seeing my baby and not knowing what to do. I’m here to tell other moms who are struggling: KEEP PRESSING when things feel ‘off’.Don’t give up on getting help. It saved my life.”
– Memphis Mom
“I thought you had PPD if you had suicidal thoughts or wanted to hurt yourself or your baby, because that’s basically what they ask you at your follow-up OBGYN appointment. I had no idea that what I was actually feeling was PPD. In hindsight, more PPD symptoms should’ve been talked about during my prenatal appointments and birth classes. There’s such a huge range of feelings and everyone’s experience is different.”
– Memphis Mom, Colleen
Post Pregnancy : Taking Care of our Mental Health
“Encourage your friends to talk about their mental health. Encourage them to talk to their OB or doctor or therapist as soon as they ‘feel down’. Chance are that things are actually worse than they seem. Once someone opens up about depression they probably have been feeling that way for awhile. I got on an antidepressant and felt significantly better in about a month. And I’ve continued taking it every day since.”
-Memphis Mom, Cara
“I recommend referring struggling moms to places like Postpartum Support International Line. Keep handy the PSI HelpLine: 1-800-944-4773 #1 en Español or #2 English. Or you can text “HELP” to 1-800-944-4473 English or text en Español 971-203-7773. Or if they feel like there really is no hope, the Suicide Prevention line: 988 or 911.”
— Memphis Mom Vivian
“When I went back to working full time, it was so nice just talking to other working moms. We shared the feelings of guilt and sadness around missing milestones, while also acknowledging and celebrating that each of us chose to go back to work! Our mental health was better because we remembered who we are and reminded of what we are good at (in addition to being a great mom)!”
– Memphis Mom, Jocelyn
Build a Support System
“I had PPD after my first child (severe anxiety over leaving the house, the most mundane tasks took a valiant effort, getting out of bed was hard, even if the baby was crying). When I got pregnant for a second time, I knew I was going to need additional help besides my husband. Plus, I also had a toddler to take care of. So I decided to hire a full time nanny. I interviewed applicants while I was still pregnant and had a plan in place once the baby came. I knew that I wouldn’t (couldn’t) be the mom my kids needed without daytime help. I wish there wasn’t such a stigma around having a nanny. Mine was literally a life-saver.”
– Memphis Mom
“When I went back to work, it was important to have a conversation with my spouse about day-to-day responsibilities, like childcare drop off/pick up, grocery shopping, who would be the one to stay home with a sick baby, etc. It was also helpful for me to carve out some free time and not just jump right back in to being ‘mom’ after a long day of work. Clearly communicating this need helped me not be resentful or feel guilty.”
-Memphis Mom, Jocelyn
5 Doable Tips to Help Those Struggling
“After having two kids within 4 years and immigrating to a different country, without family and support, here’s 5 ways moms need you to show up:
1. Reach out regularly — call, text, or personal visit. JUST SHOW UP. Show you care.
2. Help her with the regular chores — get her groceries, accompany her on walking the dog, drive her to her doctor appointments.
3. Take her out for a quick bite or cup of coffee (and pay for it!). It just helps to change the scenery!
4. Offer a listening ear and compassion but never give (unsolicited) advice. Validate their feelings and respect the hard work a new mum does. Sometimes all we need is someone to hear us vent.
5. Take the older kids for a day. If there’s already siblings in the house, it’s a huge help to give the mom time 1:1 with the new baby. The big kids get some special attention and mom gets a (slight) break.”
– Memphis Mom, Richa
Watch It Starts with Mom Live! to hear from health experts and other moms about what you need to know to ensure the best health outcomes for you and your baby!
June 22 at 3:00 PM ET on March of Dimes Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
In case you missed it, watch the first video in the It Starts With Mom series as experts chat about mental health, cardiovascular issues, chronic health conditions, how to advocate for yourself, and much more. For more information and the series schedule visit itstartswithmom.org !