The week of May 1st-May 7th is Maternal Mental Health Week, where different organizations will partner to bring awareness to the most common birth complication, postpartum mental health issues. It is reported that anywhere from 11-20% of women who give birth each year will suffer from postpartum depression symptoms; that is more than 600,000 women annually. This number only represents women who had a live birth, leaving out all the women who miscarry or have a stillborn child who may also suffer from postpartum depression symptoms. That would increase that number immensely. Furthermore, the original number of approximately 600,000 women that is reported by the Centers of Disease Control is not a comprehensive number in other ways. That number was derived from women who self-reported symptoms. What about all the women who do not speak up about their suffering? What about all the women who do not know that what they are feeling is PPD? What about all the women who have anxiety or OCD symptoms instead of depression and do not realize it is from postpartum issues? Many resources state that it is likely that more than 1 million women suffer from some sort of postpartum mood disorder or anxiety disorder each year, making it the most common complication of childbirth.
Many women do not ever seek treatment even though this is a disorder that is highly treatable. So why not seek treatment? Especially since research shows that postpartum mood disorders affect not just the women suffering, but the children involved as well. It impacts their development and can make them more likely to suffer from a psychiatric illness themselves. When women are not treated properly, the symptoms last much longer, and can even turn into a lifelong psychiatric illness.
So, again, why are women not seeking treatment? There are so many reasons- none of which are fair or valid for women in our society. They do not seek help because there is stigma attached to admitting they are struggling. They do seek help because providers are not screening for these issues. They do not seek help because the information is not available for them to understand what is happening to them. They do not seek help because much of the time, there is not help available. Which is not only unfortunate, but unacceptable. We need to take better care of our women at their most vulnerable time so they can be mentally healthy to care for our most vulnerable members of society. We need to all do more- increase awareness, increase screening, increase resources.
Over this next week, Motherhood Matters, as a partner in Maternal Mental Health Week, intends to do just that. Increase knowledge, awareness, screening, and resources. Tune in here all week to learn more.
Megan Schlude, LPA is a psychologist and mama who is passionate about helping women with all types of perinatal mental health issues. She has extensive training and experience in women’s mental health through pregnancy and postpartum and developed the Motherhood Matters program offered at Chrysalis Center. For more information or to join the next Motherhood Matters therapy group, starting May 23rd, please call Chrysalis at 910-790-9500.