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Maternal Mental Health

Mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth. However, these conditions often go untreated, which makes it harder for moms and families to care for children and themselves. Maternal mental health conditions are usually treatable and temporary, but women and childbearing people must receive the right support to get through them.

HHS Launches New Maternal Mental Health Hotline

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently established a hotline to help childbearing people and new moms facing mental health struggles. The hotline was launched on May 8, 2022, to provide a safe place to talk to someone if you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions during pregnancy or postpartum.

The hotline is confidential, and you can talk to someone trained to support you through this time in your life. Contact them by phone or text for free at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS to speak to someone in English or Spanish. This hotline is not intended as an emergency line, so if you need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Above all, know that you deserve support and you’re not alone.

Why Maternal Mental Health Awareness Matters

Maternal mental health disorders are more common than you might think, with one in five childbearing people experiencing them during pregnancy or postpartum. However, less than 15% of these people receive the help and support they need to manage their condition. The risks are even higher for BIPOC mothers, who often don’t have as many resources available to them.

Pregnancy and postpartum mental health conditions can arise for many reasons, and most women and childbearing people have several contributing biological, psychological, and social risk factors. Some people are at higher risk of developing them than others, but even if you don’t, you shouldn’t ignore the signs.

Awareness allows mothers and families to recognize when to get help with a mental health condition sooner. These conditions affect childbearing people, but they also affect families, and loved ones often don’t know how to provide support under these circumstances.

Awareness can reduce the risk of developing a mental health disorder during or after pregnancy, and it reduces complications resulting from mental health struggles, including suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for childbearing people in the year after birth. Caring for new and expecting moms before it reaches that point, and when they have concerns or need emergency care, gives them the support they need, so they can ask for help, receive it, and promote their overall wellness.

Maternal Mental Health Conditions

No two people will experience the same mental health condition in the exact same way. It depends on several factors, including predisposition to certain mental illnesses and the biological, psychological, and social factors involved. Knowing what different pregnancy and postpartum conditions look like can help when trying to find help. Look for signs like these:

  • The Baby Blues: Up to 80% of childbearing people experience this condition. It usually resolves in a few days but not longer than two weeks. It may involve sadness, crying, and mood swings.
  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression: This condition appears in up to 20% of childbearing people and is more prevalent if you have depression before pregnancy and birth. It can mean you have a hard time concentrating, sadness, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, and have a hard time bonding with your baby.
  • Maternal Dysthymia: If you have had a low mood for two years along with other depression symptoms, you may have this condition. It can also mean a higher risk for severe depression in the perinatal period.
  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety: Up to 15% of childbearing people may have restlessness, trouble sleeping, extreme worry about their baby or parenthood, and physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat related to anxiety.
  • Pregnancy and Postpartum OCD: In 3-5% of people, this type of OCD appears as obsessive thoughts and compulsions to relieve them. You may feel like something bad will happen if you do or don’t do a particular action, even if that action isn’t related to the thought.
  • Birth-Related PTSD: In 3.1% of childbearing people, trauma during delivery or postpartum causes PTSD-related flashbacks and intense memories of the event.

If you experience or are concerned about maternal health disorders, MMHLA has resources to help. Explore MMHLA’s resources for mothers and families to find the support you need.

Research and materials for this article were compiled, written, and distributed on behalf of the National Public Health Information Coalition. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the various authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Public Health Information Coalition or its members.

The National Public Health Information Coalition

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