Each year, the month of May is designated as Maternal Mental Health Month.
This initiative aims to raise awareness about the importance of maternal mental health, including the challenges and triumphs faced by mothers worldwide.
During this month, organizations and individuals come together to share resources, educate, and advocate for improved maternal mental health care.
At Elite DNA Behavioral Health we’re committed to taking part in this crucial conversation by sharing our own founder’s experience to help spread awareness.
By sharing our stories, we can work together to break the stigma surrounding postpartum depression and other maternal mental health issues to pave the way for a more supportive and nurturing environment for mothers across Florida and around the world.
Maternal Mental Health: Understanding Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mental health issue that affects up to 1 in 7 women after giving birth. Becoming a mother is a significant life event. While it can be a time of immense joy and growth, it’s not unusual for new mothers to face challenges along the way.
Our Founder and CEO, Elizabeth “Lizy” Dorsoretz, LCSW, experienced a gamut of emotions after the birth of her first son.
“I wanted to have kids, and I always had a picture in my mind of how it was supposed to be. But then there was just…this depressed feeling. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, and I felt like I couldn’t be the kind of mom that this cute little baby deserves,” she said.
You may have similar feelings of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, or guilt. You might even feel like you’re having difficulty bonding with your baby.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it doesn’t make you a bad mother.
PPD is a common and treatable condition that many women face.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Awareness of PPD started to rise during the 1980’s and with that interest came research into global incidences and maternal risk factors. Studies suggest that reported numbers of women with postnatal mental health conditions are likely lower than reported. In fact, according to the Cleveland Clinic, over 50% of people experience some level of the “baby blues”.
Any new mother can experience postpartum depression but there are factors that may increase the risk. These include a family or personal history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders. Socially, you may be struggling with a lack of support from friends, family, or even your partner. Or might have other significant issues such as financial strain or the stress that comes from a high-risk pregnancy or trouble breastfeeding.
Just because it’s “natural” doesn’t mean breastfeeding is easy for all new moms.
“It’s a wonderful way to bond with your child and it’s a wonderful way to nourish your child. But I definitely think that there needs to be more awareness that it doesn’t work for everybody. It doesn’t mean you’re broken. It’s perfectly OK and the baby will still grow, and you’ll still be bonded. It was one of those distortions that my brain allowed me to really get stuck on,” said Lizy.
Some feelings associated with PPD can be the result of the normal healing process your body goes through after giving birth or the realities of life with new baby.
Some common triggers for PPD symptoms may include:
- Hormonal changes
- Sleep deprivation
- Physical recovery
- Lifestyle adjustments
After giving birth, your hormone levels, including estrogen and progesterone, fluctuate significantly. This sudden change can contribute to mood swings and the development of PPD. It’s important to be gentle with yourself during this time and reach out for support if you’re struggling with emotional challenges related to hormonal shifts.
Caring for a newborn often involves sleepless nights, which can significantly impact your mood and mental health. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, and irritability.
“The less I slept, it felt like the more the baby woke up. Lack of sleep is a huge issue. It was the main contributing factor to what ultimately made me realize I needed to go see someone,” Lizy said.
Prioritizing rest, asking for help from your support network, and implementing healthy sleep habits can help alleviate some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation on your emotional well-being.
There are also significant changes your body undergoes when recovering from childbirth. Physical discomfort, pain, or complications during your recovery may contribute to feelings of depression or frustration. Seeking appropriate medical care and giving yourself enough time to heal can support your physical recovery and help you manage the emotional challenges that may arise during this period.
Adapting to the new responsibilities and routines of parenthood can be overwhelming, according to Lizy.
“Just moving around with a baby all of a sudden, I’m responsible for another human all the time and dealing with the car seat, and I felt like I can’t do the kind of job that I expect myself to do,” she revealed.
It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions as you navigate the transition to motherhood.
Establishing a support network, setting realistic expectations, and practicing self-compassion can help you cope with the lifestyle adjustments that come with parenthood.
Even with her own mental health training, Lizy still gives tremendous credit to her partner and her parents for supporting her physically and emotionally as she sought treatment. When she initially resisted making an appointment because of feeling overwhelmed by her son’s feeding schedule her mom stepped up.
“I was just focused on ‘when will the baby eat’ and so [when I was at my appointments] my mother said ‘I’ll stay in the waiting room with the baby. You can go, you know’. So, I think that having her and that support made it much easier,” Lizy recalls.
When to Seek Help
Recognizing when you might need to seek help from a mental health provider is an essential step in maintaining your overall well-being.
For Lizy, that moment came at her postpartum checkup.
“I had gone to my postpartum checkup and my doctor noticed I’d lost all my weight very quickly. He asked if there was something more going on…then I started crying, which I never do in front of people,” she said.
Here are some signs that it might be time for you to reach out for professional support:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or despair
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Difficulty coping with daily stressors
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Isolating yourself from loved ones or friends
- Persistent feelings of anxiety or worry
- Increased irritability, mood swings, or an unusually short temper
- Turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with your emotions
- Difficulty functioning at work or school
- Gaining or losing weight
- Feeling intense feelings of guilt or shame
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Experiencing suicidal ideations or thinking about harming your baby
- Having intrusive thoughts, for example, worrying about life-threatening situations involving your baby
Seek mental health services immediately if you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. These thoughts can be a sign of a more serious mental health condition, postpartum psychosis, which requires professional intervention.
If you are currently experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide reach out to a mental health professional or call the national 988 crisis hotline.
There should be no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional.
If you’re experiencing any of these signs or have concerns about your mental well-being, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Taking care of your mental health is a vital aspect of maintaining overall wellness and living a fulfilling life.
The Impact of Social Media on Postpartum Depression
The portrayal of motherhood on social media can significantly impact PPD. While social media can offer support and connection, it can also create unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy. Here are some ways social media portrayal of motherhood may influence postpartum depression:
Social media often showcases picture-perfect moments of parenthood, which can create unrealistic expectations for new mothers, leading to feelings of inadequacy or guilt.
“Motherhood looked so easy and effortless for everybody else. But for me, it just didn’t feel that way. For me, it felt hard and as a result, I was just very, very hard on myself,” Lizy confided.
Curated images of mothers – especially celebrities or “mom-fluencers” – appearing to excel in various aspects of parenting can evoke feelings of envy and self-doubt. Social media posters tend to share only their highlight reels, making some new mothers feel isolated in their struggles with PPD and perpetuating the stigma surrounding postpartum depression.
Image conscious social media platforms often place emphasis on quickly getting back to a pre-pregnancy body, which contributes to negative body image and self-esteem issues and makes some women anxious to rush the postpartum healing process. Recovering from pregnancy looks different on everybody.
To tone down the negative impact of social media, try to maintain a balanced perspective. Look for supportive online communities or follow accounts that promote openness, transparency and honesty about the challenges of parenthood. Taking breaks from social media or setting boundaries around its use can also be beneficial for your overall mental health during the postpartum period.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
If you suspect you’re experiencing PPD, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you navigate your feelings and develop a personalized treatment plan.
Lizy credits therapy and anti-depressants for “gluing her back together” after the birth of her first son.
Some treatment options for postpartum depression may include:
Talking with a therapist or counselor during talk therapy can help you process your emotions, develop healthy coping strategies, and gain new perspectives on your situation.
Treatment modalities like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help new mothers manage postpartum symptoms.
Treating anxiety and depression with medications can help support moms during this time to manage symptoms of PPD or PPA. It’s important to discuss the benefits and risks with your psychiatrist or other healthcare provider to determine if this is the right option for you, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
Working with Elite DNA Behavioral Health
Navigating access to mental healthcare can seem complex, but Lizy’s experience with postpartum depression is at the very foundation of Elite DNA Behavioral Health’s mission.
“I feel it’s my obligation to not only make mental healthcare access more of a reality but also to push it forward and say: ‘let’s talk about this, your insurance covers this’. I promise you don’t be scared to come in, you should be able to have this. This is a service that you deserve. It’s your right,” Lizy advocates.
We offer professional psychiatric and psychotherapy care in-person at our many locations throughout Florida.
We also offer high-quality, stable, and confidential telehealth sessions through Zoom. Telehealth is available to any Florida resident.
You’re Not Alone…We Can Help
Whether in person, or virtually, our mental and behavioral health experts are here to support you every step of the way.
Get started today with therapy options to help manage your symptoms of postpartum depression.
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