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Recognize the signs: Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month Sheds Light on Perinatal Wellness

May marks Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to focus on the emotional well-being of expecting and new mothers. Maternal mental health refers to a mother's overall mental, emotional, and social well-being during and after pregnancy and up to a year after childbirth. Perinatal mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and others, are common but often overlooked conditions that can have serious consequences if left untreated. Understanding the signs and symptoms is crucial for early diagnosis and treatment.

According to Postpartum Support International, 15-20% of birthing parents experience a Perinatal Mental Health Disorder (PMHD); it’s the #1 complication from childbirth.

Perinatal mental health disorders encompass a range of conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and up to a year after childbirth, and can cause eating and sleeping disturbances. They are ALL treatable with the right resources and support including peer support, therapy, and medication.

Depression: Symptoms include a loss of interest in activities, fatigue, feelings of sadness and worthlessness, difficulty bonding with the baby, and anger or irritability.

Anxiety: Symptoms include constant worrying, racing thoughts, feelings of dread and overwhelm, and physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and trembling.

Panic Disorder: This branch of anxiety manifests physically with repeated episodes of intense fear or worry, known as panic attacks, which may cause insomnia and loss of appetite.

OCD: Symptoms include persistent and repetitive thoughts (obsessions) that are upsetting and compulsions to reduce fears (compulsions) such as cleaning, checking things, or counting.

Bipolar Disorder: Marked by periods of mania (increased energy, racing thoughts) and episodes of depression, extreme lows.

PTSD: Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, and irritability due to a past trauma that disrupts memory processing.

Psychosis: A break from reality with hallucinations, delusions, and thoughts of harm. Postpartum psychosis is temporary but requires immediate medical help.

Recognizing these symptoms is the first step towards seeking help.

Postpartum Support International (PSI) offers free resources, including online support groups and a directory of perinatal mental health providers. They also provide the SAMHSA's National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) for 24/7 free access to professional counselors.

As doulas, we play a vital role in supporting maternal mental health. By providing a nurturing and supportive environment, we can help mothers feel empowered and less isolated, reducing the risk of perinatal mental health disorders. Let's continue to raise awareness and support mothers in their journey to mental wellness!

Here's a great video with simplified info about Perinatal Mental Health:

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