May 12, 2021
May is Maternal Mental Health Month - Are You a Resource for Families Who Struggle?
By: Sharon Muza, BS, CD/BDT(DONA), LCCE, FACCE, CLE | 0 Comments
May is Maternal Mental Health Month. This is an excellent time to check in and reevaluate what information you are currently sharing in your classes, when you share it and what resources you provide to families who might be dealing with a mood disorder related to their pregnancy or postpartum period. Childbirth educators are in a unique position to normalize perinatal mood disorders (PMDs) which impact up to 20% of pregnant or postpartum people. Untreated perinatal mood disorders impact quality of life and parenting experiences for the entire family including the children. 25% of people who give birth report their birth as traumatic, and a traumatic experience is a risk factor for a PMD, along with previous mental health struggles, a family history of depression or anxiety, a history of miscarriage or loss, having a child with special needs, life stressors such as a job change, death in the family, a previous experience with a PMD, relationship struggles with a partner, multiples, a lack of familial support or an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. Especially during the past 18 months, with the global pandemic, the likelihood of one or more of these situations has been increased.
A perinatal mood disorder can include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive behaviors or any combination of these along with other less common behaviors associated with mental health struggles. Health care providers may not be routinely or adequately screening for mental health concerns with their patients, and with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule of prenatal and postpartum visits has been revised and often moved to a tele-health format, both which can offer less opportunity to discuss or observe potential issues via body language and other nonverbal cues.
For those who teach a series class (that meets repeatedly for a period of time) the topics of perinatal mental health can and should be discussed and normalized in every class from the first meeting right through any post birth contact and “reunion” events. We know that people often need to hear important information more than once to be able to “access” it in the future.
If you are teaching a class that meets just once, please don’t exclude this topic from class discussion, even though it may feel like there is simply not enough time to address it. Perinatal mood disorders are simply too important to skip over, and parents who hear about this potential difficulty repeatedly from a variety of sources will be more likely to recognize the signs in themselves or their partners and seek help. At a minimum, consider including it in any pre or post class emails that get sent to participants.
Previously on Connecting the Dots, we have shared an activity that you can do in-person about the emotions of the childbearing year. With a little tweaking, this activity can also be effectively conducted during a virtual class. You can find the details for “All the Feels” here.
Take a moment now to do the following:
- Make sure you are integrating the topic of perinatal mood disorders in every meeting with your families.
- Check that your pre and post class communications include resources to screen for and receive help with any perinatal mental health situations that someone might be experiencing.
- Verify that you include both local and national resources for people to access. These resources should include mental health therapists, peer to peer support groups and clinicians who can prescribe medications if necessary. Don’t forget a 24/7 crisis line number as well.
- Remember to address that a PMD can affect both the pregnant/postpartum person and the partner.
- Do your best to have available resources in the most common languages of class participants.
- Make a note on your calendar to verify yearly that shared links and resources are still current and relevant.
- Seek out effective and interesting activities to do during class times so that the material feels fresh and engaging to participants.
Acknowledgement that a perinatal mood disorder is common, treatable and nothing to be ashamed about is an important part of getting support to the people who are dealing with this challenge. Childbirth educators play an important role in keeping the message front and center and can be a resource for those who are dealing with this situation.
TagsPregnancy Postpartum Maternal Mental Health Postpartum Mood Disorders depression PMAD Sharon Muza PMADs Maternal Mental Health Month