Pregnancy is an extremely exciting time in a woman’s life, but it is also a life change that can take its toll on mental health. According to Postpartum Support International (PSI,) as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADs) and unfortunately, it is common for these illnesses to go unnoticed and untreated.
Whether you are someone who is going through a tough time yourself or know someone who is, it’s important to remember that you are never alone and that support is always available. May 5th, 2021 is World Maternal Mental Health Day and while it marks one day out of the year to acknowledge such an important subject, it is something that is important to discuss all year round.
So, what is World Maternal Mental Health day and why do we need it?
World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH) is a day that aims to spread awareness of maternal mental health issues so that more women who are struggling can get the help and support that they need.
If you look at the statistics, 13-20% of women and birthing people will experience anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy. Some of these perinatal mood and anxiety disorders include: Pre and postpartum depression, pre and postpartum anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Spreading awareness about this issue is important because women of every age, culture, income level, and race are at risk for PMADs—no one is immune to it. Luckily, there are many treatments out there that can help women who are struggling with perinatal mental health issues recover.
If you’re looking for ways to take action on World Maternal Mental Health Day or throughout the year, there are a quite a few ways you can get involved.
1. Check in with yourself and/or new and expecting mothers
If there’s one thing to remember to do on World Maternal Mental Health Day and every day, it’s to check in with new or expecting mothers in your life and ask them how they are truly feeling. If you are a new or an expecting mother yourself, it’s always important to make sure you are looking after yourself, getting the rest you need, and staying connected to those you can count on for support.
Going through life changes like pregnancy or adjusting to new motherhood can be an isolating experience, making more women susceptible to mental illness. Estimates show that 7 out of 10 women hide or downplay their symptoms. Without support or open conversation about treatment, these symptoms can have a long-term effect not only on mothers, but their families. Just the simple action of checking in with yourself or the new and expecting mothers that you know can be one of many ways to provide support and give them a chance to feel seen, heard, and empowered to seek further help if needed.
2. Share Your Story
For anyone who is experiencing PMADs, sharing your story can not only help raise awareness about this subject, but also make others going through the same thing feel as though they are not alone.
There is a lot of stigma that surrounds mental illness and making your voice heard can play a role in helping to end some of that stigma. While not everyone may feel comfortable sharing their stories, it is one way to make known to other mothers on the same journey that treatment is available to them and that they should never feel ashamed about the feelings they are experiencing.
If this is something of interest to you, you may find that a lot of online platforms and blogs dedicated to mothers give them the opportunity to share their story on or around World Maternal Mental Health Day. Even sharing your story with close family and friends can be just as effective.
3. Join or spread the word about WMMH day support groups
Around World Maternal Mental Health Day, it’s common to see wellness group offerings for women and birthing people during pregnancy and postpartum. You can take a look at the global events listed here, to discover virtual conferences, symposiums, wellness groups and more that you or someone you know may be interested in joining.
Sharing the word to friends and family about these offerings, or even through social media can bring more awareness to this subject as a whole. You never know who you can reach to by a simple share in person or online!
4. Put your mental health first
Your mental health and wellbeing should always be a priority. It’s important to care for yourself so you can have the foundation needed to take care of those around you. Whether you are concerned that you may be experiencing perinatal mood or anxiety disorders or just need the support to get you through these times, there are professionals out there who specialize in these disorders and can help you.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a great organization that offers wonderful resources, directories and so much more for people to be able to find the professional help that they need in their area. The PSI Perinatal Mental Health Provider Directory gives you the opportunity to find and connect with care providers that specialize in treating and serving families with perinatal mental health issues. You can even browse by category to determine what services meet your needs best.
The list of things to do to observe World Maternal Mental Health Day can go on, however, the most important thing you can do is to use your voice to help continue the conversation of perinatal mental health. Prioritizing your mental health is always important and making aware that the support is out there can really give a lot of people the power they need to take the next steps to address their mental health struggles. Remember, you are never alone in this and that with the proper help, you will always have the opportunity to get better.