Why All Moms Need a Postpartum Mental Health Plan

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Creating a postpartum mental health plan when you’re in the middle of planning for a new baby is something all women should be encouraged to do. Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a mom, so you assume that you won’t have any problems adjusting after baby has arrived.

It could be that you think mental health challenges only affect other women and families. Perhaps you think that if something does happen postpartum, you’ll be able to get the help you need right when you need it.

Do the Work While You Have the Time

With postpartum mood disorders like postpartum depression and anxiety effecting one in five women who have given birth, you are at risk of developing a maternal mental illness. Putting together a plan while you’re pregnant may feel silly or like total overkill, but there are good reasons why there’s no time like the present.

For all moms, regardless of the number of children you have, before your new baby arrives is when you have the time to consider your mental health and do your research. Do the work now before you’re trying to adjust to life with a new baby.

When you’re in the middle of trying to figure out breastfeeding, a sleep routine and basic self-care, you’re likely not going to have a lot of time to devote to finding information and resources in your local community. Identifying your social support, visiting health care providers and understanding your options is a lot easier without a baby in tow.

Make the most of this time and add a postpartum mental health plan onto your list of to-dos before baby arrives. It doesn’t have to be long or especially detailed. You may want to think about including:

  • The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety along with the risk factors
  • Specialized postpartum mood disorder care providers and programs in your community
  • Resources and support for new moms in your area. This may include postpartum doulas, night nurses, peer support groups etc.
  • Treatment options that you’re comfortable with
  • Instructions for your partner, family or friends that outline how they can best support you

Make sure you discuss your plan with your partner and family before your baby arrives. It can be very helpful for those closest to you to know what symptoms to look for and where to find help should you need it.

Understand the Signs & Symptoms

Part of your plan should be to understand what the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety look and feel like. These can be different for everyone, but many are shared by a lot of moms and can catch you by surprise. These are things that most of us don’t typically associate with depression or anxiety but they’re very much part of each illness. Use our downloadable PDF about postpartum depression and anxiety as a quick reference guide.

Related: What is Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (PDF)

One of the more surprising symptoms of postpartum depression is rage. Yes, you read that right. Rage. It can hit you like a punch in the gut and turn you into a person you barely recognize. I have heard from many moms who’ve experienced explosive outbursts, punched holes in walls and screamed at their baby and partner. From personal experience, I know this symptom is deeply unsettling and very unexpected.

Another common symptom is intrusive thoughts. These are best described as sudden, unwelcome thoughts that are very upsetting. Often they involve images or flashes of something scary happening to you or your baby. These thoughts may involve you hurting your baby, dropping them, or another dangerous situation. They leave you feeling horrified and exhausted.

It’s so important to know that these symptoms don’t make you a bad person or a bad mom – they’re just part of the illness. With proper treatment and time, you can work through these symptoms and get better. You can feel like yourself again and we can help you in putting together a plan to get there.

Related: Family First Maternal Wellness’ Postpartum Wellness Program

Although rare, also educate yourself about postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder with postpartum onset and other mood disorders that can occur during the postpartum period.

Know Where You Can Find Help

One of the more challenging parts of recovery from a postpartum mood disorder is finding the right help. Many women start with their family doctor or if symptoms are severe enough, they go to their local Urgent Care or Emergency Room. Often, these health care providers don’t have extensive knowledge about postpartum depression and anxiety.

When diagnosing and providing treatment recommendations for a postpartum mood disorder there are special considerations that new moms need. Thoughts, feelings and symptoms that accompany these illnesses are unique, and to someone without the right background knowledge they may be interpreted incorrectly.

Take time to research what specialized postpartum mood disorder providers there are in your area and how you access them. It could be that to see a perinatal psychiatrist, you have to first visit a specific hospital or program for a referral.

There may be psychologists that treat these illnesses, but they have a waiting list or aren’t covered by your insurance provider. Know your options before you deliver and in the event that you need them, you’re able to make a more informed decision.

Putting together a postpartum mental health care plan while your pregnant can save you a lot of time and stress after your baby has arrived. If you have questions about postpartum mood disorders or are experiencing some of the symptoms I’ve described, we can help you make sense of it all. Book a consultation with our Postpartum Wellness Coordinator to understand your options.