By Loren Kleinman | May 12, 2021
"The day Lily was born, my husband, Joe, took pictures, murmured soft words, and held her every moment he could. "I want to stay home with her for her first year," he said. "I read it's important for their development."
Luckily, he was able to as he was honorably discharged from the Navy. But despite my three-month maternity leave, I wanted to go back to work.
But when we returned home from the hospital, I unraveled. No time to shower, eat, or pay a bill. Our lives revolved around Lily. Everything I imagined about motherhood exploded. Dreams of gardening with my daughter in a Snugli on my chest were replaced with her unrelenting cries and endless diaper changes.
Yet to Joe, she was just a baby. "What did you think having a baby would be like?" he asked.
"Not like this," I snapped, taking off my spit-up covered shirt and replacing it with a clean one.
It wasn't just the dirty shirt. I had thoughts of hurting myself and my baby, an alarming desire to drive us both off the road. I hated myself for these thoughts, but I hated her more. I hated that she never slept, and resented that I couldn't, either. I hated breastfeeding, which was not magical as I'd pictured, but painful and lonely.
I missed our date nights, coming and going as I pleased, and clean clothes.
Darkness settled over me, unlike any depression I'd experienced. I began experimenting with cutting myself just to feel something other than exhaustion, spending long minutes in the bathroom, my only escape. With each cut came relief from the burden of this new, agonizing life.
"You were in there a long time," Joe teased me.
Low spirited, I replied, "I wish I never had to come out."
He reached out to console me and saw the cuts on my arm. I didn't hide them. I didn't care. But Joe called his therapist, who told him about a clinic for women with postpartum depression.
"He doesn't even know me," I argued.
"You're going," a frazzled Joe said. "Today."
My First Dose of Postpartum Depression Treatment
We arrived to find a room filled with infants, dads, and moms, many of the latter red-faced and crying, while their husbands stood by, holding babies. I was amazed to see so many men like my husband, cradling their little ones, in solidarity with their wives, as the women went one by one to meet with a psychiatrist.
When it was my turn, I looked back at Joe and Lily. A concerned smile dusted his face. "We'll be right here when you're done."
During my intake, I asked flatly, "Will I ever love her?"
"This is a classic postpartum depression question. You will love her," the psychiatrist assured me. "But I have to ask, do you have any plans to kill yourself?"
Without hesitation, I said, "I want to drive off the road." Then I wept.
I wasn't allowed to drive until further notice, and if I didn't abide, the psychiatrist warned, "We'd have to consider hospitalization."
Joe ferried me to and from the clinic every day, no matter how many times he'd been up with Lily the night before. On weekends, Joe tended to me and to Lily, making sure we both ate and slept, as his parents flew out from Washington State to lend a hand, a relief to both of us.
For the first time, I felt some hope.
Every week, I attended weekly dialectical behavior therapy sessions (DBT), learning skills for coping with my anxiety and insomnia like radical acceptance and positive self-talk.
Things Only Got Worse
Then, one night, after Joe put Lily to bed, we sat on our back porch, me with my usual glass of wine, him with his Coke and ice.
"Are you OK?" he asked, as I stared, glassy-eyed, into the trees.
Before coming outside, I'd already washed down a handful of Tylenols, along with sedatives and a few glasses of wine.
"I can't live like this anymore." I paused. "Lily deserves a mom, not me."
Joe sighed and said, "I'm calling the clinic's emergency line."
The therapist on duty advised Joe to bring me to the hospital immediately, even though I protested. But I had no choice. I confessed my desire to kill myself, so I could go voluntarily or in an ambulance.
Joe stayed with me for nine hours in the emergency room, until there was a bed ready in the psychiatric unit. His parents watched Lily at home.
"Please don't let them take me away," I called out to Joe, as a nurse led me to the unit.
"I'll see you in the morning," Joe answered back. "You will be OK."
When he arrived the next day, I pleaded with him to get me out.
"Someone tried to kill themselves last night," I cried. "I don't belong here."
"Can you give it a chance?" he begged.
I sat back in my chair and folded my arms. I resented Joe for bringing me here. At the beginning of our relationship, I'd been the strong one, helping him through his own hardships. But Lily changed everything.
"I have to get back," he said. "Focus on getting better, not getting out."
When Joe leaned in to give me a kiss goodbye, I stopped him. "I want a divorce when this is over," I whispered.
He teared up and said, "You've said some of the meanest things anyone has ever said to me."
I felt no remorse. Before the baby, we never went to bed angry. Now, I loathed him for keeping me here. I was determined to punish him, and I did, lashing out constantly, but he kept visiting and taking my phone calls. He never stopped trying.
I was discharged after five days. Joe and I argued for the entire ride home. When we arrived at the house, I imploded: "I can't take this anymore!"
I threw chairs and baby toys, wailing, and punching the wall. Joe couldn't calm me, so he took Lily and his parents to the farthest part of the house.
The next morning, Joe gave me a choice: "You either go to your parents' house and take a break, or you go back to the hospital."
I chose the first option.
A few days later, Joe called me. "I told my therapist what happened. He called Child Protective Services," he said matter-of-factly.
"They're going to take Lily away?" I asked.
Shocked, I suddenly realized how much I wanted her."
By Paige Glidden | May 07, 2021
"During TheBlueDotProject's Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, it's time to focus on the mental health of mothers—especially during a life-changing pandemic. The most recognized maternal mental health disorder is postpartum depression, but there are other common mental health concerns to look out for.
Juggling societal and familial expectations is a heavy burden for anyone. But when you add a new baby into the mix (during a pandemic!), it can become overwhelming. Sleepless nights, hormones, and new emotions all feed into overwhelm after the birth of a baby, not to mention that maternal anxiety and depression are the most common complications of childbirth, impacting up to 1 in 5 women.
The first week of May serves as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, bringing to light the challenges that moms face and the reality of postpartum depression and anxiety. Maternal Mental Health Disorders (MMHDs) include a range of disorders and symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Although often referred to more commonly as "postpartum depression," there are several different types of postpartum mental health disorders that affect new moms.
Symptoms can occur during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period (together often referred to as the perinatal period). These illnesses can affect anyone—and they are far more common than you'd think. Although an estimated one in five women have a maternal mental health disorder, most cases go undiagnosed, leading experts to believe that the number should be much higher. New parents also experience the baby blues, which is not formally considered an MMHD—up to 80 percent of women suffer from this in the initial two to three days postpartum, according to Bridget Frese Hutchens, Ph.D., CNM, RN, CNL, PHN.
What's worse is that only 30 percent of women who screen positive for depression or anxiety seek or receive treatment. When left untreated these disorders can cause devastating consequences for moms, babies, families and communities. The good news is that risk for both depression and anxiety can be reduced (and sometimes even prevented), and with treatment, women can recover.
It can be hard to identify some of the symptoms of postpartum mental health challenges, but it's worth paying attention to. Here are five types of maternal mental health conditions to look out for:
Common Maternal Mental Health Disorders
1. Postpartum Depression
Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that can begin during pregnancy or in the first three weeks after having a baby, according to ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Symptoms can range from mild sadness, trouble concentrating, or difficulty finding joy in once-loved activities to severe depression, and mothers with pre-existing depression prior to or during pregnancy are more likely to experience postpartum depression, according to The Blue Dot Project. While there is no single cause for PPD, experts attribute it to the drop in hormones estrogen and progesterone following childbirth and general stressors which increase during pregnancy and the postpartum period. With proper mental health care, PPD is treatable and the risk of severe depression can also be prevented.
2. Dysthymia, Persistent Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia is defined as a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with at least two other symptoms of depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with dysthymia may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, or have overall feelings of inadequacy. Women with pre-existing dysthymia may be at a higher risk for severe symptoms/depression during the perinatal period, according to The Blue Dot Project.
3. Pregnancy and Postpartum General Anxiety
It might seem normal to worry before or after having a baby, but if your anxiety is more than just the baby blues and you can't get these worries out of your brain, you might be suffering from pregnancy or postpartum related generalized anxiety . Around 10 percent of women will develop anxiety during pregnancy or after childbirth, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Anxiety is treatable during pregnancy and postpartum.
Symptoms often include restlessness, racing heartbeat, inability to sleep, extreme worry about the "what if's"—questions like "what if my baby experiences SIDS" or "what if my baby has autism," and extreme worry about not being a good parent or being able to provide for her family, according to The Blue Dot Project."
By Sydney Daniello, Programs Intern at Mental Health America | June 01, 2020
"Routines have a bad reputation of being dull, boring ruts we fall into over time. But a lot of routines can actually be really helpful for maintaining both our physical and mental wellbeing. And now that many of our normal routines have been disrupted, it’s become more important than ever to establish routines to keep us healthy, happy and - well - sane.
I, for one have been having a tough time setting up and sticking to any routine other than waking up every morning and silently screaming into the void. So, I asked my coworkers here at MHA about what kinds of routines have been helpful to them for maintaining their wellbeing during these ~unprecedented times~
Here’s a list of what they said (summarized, not all direct quotes):
By: Lindsay Dolak | Editor at Aaptiv | August 6, 2020
"No matter how fit you were before and even during pregnancy, postpartum exercise presents a unique set of challenges. Your body is still healing from delivery, and with a newborn in the house, you might be feeling more tired than ever. But finding time to fit in fitness is amazing for both your body and mind—it can be just what you need to get back to feeling like your pre-pregnancy self. No, we’re not talking about “getting your body back.” We’re talking about a boost to your energy, self-confidence and physical strength. Plus, you’re bound to sleep better too. Do we have your attention now? Here, two trainers from Aaptiv—a fitness app offering trainer-led, music-driven audio workouts—break down why you should start a postnatal fitness routine, and how to do it.
Benefits of Postpartum Exercise
Postnatal exercise brings a host of positive benefits to your body, but also for your mood and stress levels. Fitness not only helps your body heal but also provides an outlet to recenter and focus on yourself—something that might feel a bit out of reach now that you’re caring for another tiny human. “Postpartum exercise gives moms back that feeling of being in control,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham, an ACE-certified personal trainer and Fit For Birth pre- and post-natal corrective exercise specialist. “It’s a huge stress-reliever and also gives new moms something to really focus on for themselves.”
Aaptiv trainer and mom Jaime McFaden, an ACE-certified pre- and post-natal fitness specialist and health coach, agrees, adding that consistent exercise post-baby provides a huge boost in not only physical strength, but mental strength as well. “You just went through so many changes—things have shifted. Exercise helps you heal from the inside out,” she says.
In addition to the many mental and emotional benefits, postnatal fitness can lead to weight loss, improved strength (carrying around a baby all the time is no joke), better sleep and more balanced hormones—a must after nine months of ups and downs.
When to Start Postpartum Exercise
First things first: Don’t jump into a postpartum exercise routine without your doctor’s approval. Many doctors recommend waiting six to eight weeks after birth before starting trying any type of exercise, but it often varies. Some women may experience complications during pregnancy or labor that might set them back a few more weeks. For example, a mother who had a vaginal birth will likely have a different timeline than one who had a c-section. And others may even be able to work out sooner than six weeks.
According to McFaden, working out during pregnancy may help when it comes time to start exercising again. “Your body’s muscle memory will kick in and you’ll have an easier time getting back into it after birth,” she says. “You still want to give your body time to recover, though. Never push yourself too hard post-baby. Patience is key.”
No matter what, it’s crucial to work with your doctor to find out exactly when is right for you and your body. “Every mom is different and it’s important to pay attention to stresses the body may undergo post-pregnancy,” Cunningham says. “A doctor will be able to check for an indication of diastasis recti (the separation of the abdominals) and be able to recommend the appropriate physical work to heal that or any other side effects of childbirth.”
There’s no real reason to rush back into exercising early anyways. In fact, it can cause you more harm than good down the line. It might be hard for women used to high intensity workouts or long runs, but taking it slow is key.
When you’re ready, start by adding walking and low-impact bodyweight exercises at first. Aaptiv’s fourth trimester program meets new moms where they are and focuses on building back up to regular workouts. It covers core, strength training, outdoor walking and elliptical, and places special emphasis on healing the pelvic floor muscles and not aggravating a diastasis recti—both of which are crucial for new moms with recovering bodies. Don’t worry, you’ll gradually work your way back to sprints and burpees in no time.
Best Postpartum Workouts
Before you starting working out again, it’s important to temper your expectations. Your body is different now and you won’t immediately be as strong as you once were. Start with simple, functional exercises you can ultimately build on. To get you started, we asked McFaden and Cunningham to share some of their favorite postpartum exercises to work your entire body."
The 28 Best Gifts for Mom
By Alex Arpaia and Dorie Chevlen | Updated May 3, 2021
"Mothers come in all shapes and sizes and ages and attitudes. Some moms run marathons, others run companies, and still others run around town, ferrying offspring from their violin lessons to tae kwon do classes to softball practice. Some still have a house full of kids; others are now empty nesters. But these mothers all have something in common: They have at least one person (be it a child, a co-parent, or an admirer) who owes them a great big thank-you, coupled with a thoughtful gift, for everything they do. Perhaps that person is you? If so, it’s time to get on it."
By| Elizabeth Scott, MS | Medically Reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD on September 20, 2020
"Time management is a big concern for mothers these days. Between kids’ activities, household responsibilities and, for many, the demands of a stressful workplace, many mothers have given up on the fight to find time for themselves and are just trying to get everything done. The following time management tips can be used by busy moms everywhere to take some of the stress out of life, and create more time for fun times with children, quality time with their partner, or even that coveted and nearly forgotten alone time.
It’s been said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nowhere is this adage more applicable than when discussing time management tips for moms. Simply being organized can eliminate stress from forgotten appointments, double-booking, lost homework, and many other stress traps that busy moms face.
What does it mean for a mom to ‘be organized,’ and to what extent is this even possible? If you focus on a few key areas of organization, a little work can go a long way. In a nutshell, being organized with your schedule, with your house, and with your discipline strategy is one of the best time management tips you can get. And this may seem like a lot, but once you have a few plans and systems in place, if you set a regular time to check-in with these plans (like, if you look over each day's plans the night before and always remember to keep things on a calendar), it will be far easier to maintain a comfortable level of organization.
Yes, when they come to us, they are so sweet and helpless, we end up doing everything for them, and these habits are difficult to break. But then we have their children and realize that it’s impossible for one person to do it all.
While it’s tempting to cover all household responsibilities yourself (to ensure that everything is done quickly and correctly), putting some effort into getting partners and children to pitch in can really pay off in the long run.
Multitask—but Only When Appropriate
Multitasking was once praised as the time management tip to top all-time management tips. (Imagine: Getting twice as much done in a day.) Then people started seeing that multitasked projects weren’t completed as accurately, and suddenly ‘staying focused on one thing’ became the new time management fad. How about a compromise? Pair mindless tasks with focus-dependent ones when it’s appropriate. For example, you can make business calls while taking your daily walk (don’t forget exercise as an important stress reliever), or quiz your kids on test questions while you clean the kitchen. But if you feel more harried than helped, it’s time to shelve the multitasking for a bit.
Learn When to Say No
Learning to say ‘no’ to people’s requests may be an obvious time management tip for moms, but that doesn’t make it an easy one. Mothers encounter many different worthy requests for their time and attention, that saying no will often disappoint someone. However, what we don’t always realize is that when we say ‘yes’ too much, people also get disappointed because we can’t do our best when we’re spread too thin. That’s why it’s important to look at your priorities and learn to say no to time demands that aren’t absolutely necessary."
By: Elizabeth Scott, MS | Fact checked by Sean Blackburn on June 24, 2020
"From giving an important presentation at work to attending a party by yourself, there are countless situations that can be impacted by negative thoughts. Whether or not you have a diagnosed panic disorder, it's easy to get distracted by negativity and fears that can lead to a downward spiral of emotions.
In order to move forward, it's important to swap negativity with rational, positive thoughts.1 This shift can come to you more easily and automatically with practice, eventually shaping new thinking habits and strides toward recovery.
How to Ease Stress With Affirmations
Here are some ways to use positive affirmations to manage stress, particularly when dealing with anxiety at the same time.
Identify and Stop Negative Thoughts
First, learn to identify negative thoughts so you can nix the negativity as soon as it enters your mind. For example, if you found yourself thinking, "I'm going to look stupid if I go to that party alone," identify the negative thought and correct yourself in the moment.
Consciously decide to reframe and move your thoughts into a more positive direction.2 Remind yourself that others will likely be arriving alone, that people are looking forward to seeing you, and that you will probably have a good time. These thoughts can help put you in a better frame of mind.
Use Positive Affirmations
You may find it helpful to learn positive affirmations ahead of time so you're prepared when triggering situations occur. Consider the following options for common scenarios.
When faced with a situation that generates fear, such as traveling or meeting new people, try repeating positive affirmations that acknowledge your negative thoughts or emotions and let them go:
Managing your anxiety or panic disorder can be particularly difficult in times of stress, such as when you need to give a presentation in public or will be going to a networking event at work. While you may be tempted to call out sick or avoid the situation altogether, that can be harmful to you and your career. Instead, remind yourself of these affirmations:
Sometimes positive thinking can be taken too far, so it's important to remain grounded. When positive affirmations become unrealistic, they can actually trigger more anxiety as your subconscious mind notes that the ideas aren't realistic.3 You can find yourself more stressed if you start convincing yourself that you can do things you're not prepared for, and the reality of failure hits hard.
Notice that the examples given above focus on realistic and true statements that are also positive. These include what you will gain, what you have accomplished in the past, and what you will realistically achieve."
By Christina Vogt | Medically Reviewed by Allison Young, MD | Reviewed: June 17, 2021
"COVID-19 has caused a spike in post-traumatic stress among pregnant and postpartum women, internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy may help make treatment more accessible and less expensive for kids with social anxiety disorder, and other mental health news from spring 2021.
Pregnant Women Are More Vulnerable to Mental Health Problems Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic
What’s New Pregnant and postpartum women in 64 countries, including the United States, have been experiencing a higher level of symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published in April 2021 in PLOS One. Factors that put women at the greatest risk were worrying about their children and medical care, as well as seeking information about the pandemic at least five times a day from any source, whether online searches or talking to others.
Research Details Nearly 6,900 pregnant and postpartum women from around the world participated in an online survey advertised on social media and online parenting forums. The survey found that 43 percent of women demonstrated higher levels of post-traumatic stress, 31 percent of women experienced more symptoms of depression and anxiety, and 53 percent of women had high levels of loneliness. Other key findings:
Why It Matters Psychological distress during pregnancy and after birth can negatively impact both mothers’ and their children’s health. “We know that maternal mental health has adverse effects on a range of outcomes for the offspring — for example, infant outcomes, mother-infant bonding, and later offspring physical and behavioral health,” says study author Karestan Koenen, PhD, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, adding that helpful ways to care for mental health could include:
Mental health screening among pregnant and postpartum women is also key, but efforts shouldn’t stop there, says study author Archana Basu, PhD, a research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“In addition to screening and monitoring mental health symptoms, addressing potentially modifiable factors such as excessive information seeking and women’s worries about access to medical care and their children’s well-being, and developing strategies to target loneliness such as online support groups, should be part of intervention efforts for perinatal women,” says Dr. Basu."
By: Heather Marcoux | September 02, 2021
"Labor Day began in the 1800s because factory workers were tired of working 70 hours a week. Here we are 200 years later and surveys still show that mothers report working nearly 100 hours a week, and don't get days off. And it's just getting worse.
Before the pandemic moms were tired and burned out. Now, we're desperate. According to the 2020 World Economic Forum the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in women around the world losing paid work hours while taking on more unpaid work.
Studies show the pandemic has resulted in moms working fewer hours in paid roles while dads have only reduced their hours by a statistically insignificant amount. We know millennial mothers are almost three times more likely than millennial fathers to report being unable to work due to a day care or school closure.
"Considering women already shouldered a greater burden for child care prior to the pandemic, it's unsurprising the demands are now even greater," says Gema Zamarro, senior economist at the University of Southern California's Center for Economic and Social Research. "While men are more likely to die from infection by COVID-19, overall the pandemic has had a disproportionately detrimental impact on the mental health of women, particularly those with kids."
Why the work of parenting is even more unequal during a pandemic
Today's mothers are spending more time doing paid work than previous generations did, but we're also spending more time on childcare. Today's fathers, too, are spending more time on childcare than previous generations, but there is a big difference in how moms and dads in heterosexual partnerships spend time with their kids.
This can be seen in the aftermath of COVID-19: In a 2020 study that looked at dual‐earner, heterosexual married couples with children, researchers found "the greater childcare and family demands brought on by day care and school closures throughout the pandemic appear to have caused a major reduction in work hours for mothers." Dads aren't seeing reduced work hours but are seeing the benefit of more time with their kids. Nearly 70% of fathers in the United States felt closer to their children during the pandemic than they did before the pandemic, according to research from Harvard. Meanwhile, pregnant women and moms with young children reported 3 to 5 times more anxiety and depression symptoms.
Why are dads happier now while moms are more stressed? It's in part because mothers are more likely to be doing unpaid care work while spending time with the children—the bathing, the cleaning, the feeding—while research finds that fathers' time with kids is more often spent on play and leisure activities.
If you're a dad, it might seem like having a spouse who does most of the household labor is a good deal (and a growing body of research does prove that fathers are happier parents than mothers) but the research also shows that dads want to be more than the fun, weekend guy because while care work is incredibly undervalued and unequal it can also incredibly fulfilling (if the carer is also allowed to rest).
Mom doing all the drudge work and handing out snacks while dad is at the office (or locked in his home office) sounds like an outdated notion, and that's because it is. When researchers at Boston College surveyed professional fathers in 2015, they found fewer than 5% of the fathers saw themselves as just a financial provider. The survey found most fathers believed they should share their children's caregiving equally with their spouses (but only about 30% said they were actually doing that)."
by Catherine Donaldson-Evans| Medically Reviewed by Aaron Styer, M.D. on March 10, 2021
"Anyone who's ever had a professional massage knows that both body and mind feel better afterwards — and the same goes for prenatal massage, which can feel extra wonderful when extra weight and changes in posture stir up new aches and pains.
Here’s everything moms-to-be need to know about getting a massage during pregnancy.
What is a prenatal massage?
Prenatal massages are adapted for the anatomical changes you go through during pregnancy. In a traditional massage, you might spend half the time lying face-down on your stomach (which is not possible with a baby belly) and half the time facing up (a position that puts pressure on a major blood vessel that can disrupt blood flow to your baby and leave you feeling nauseous).
But as your shape and posture changes, a trained massage therapist will make accommodations with special cushioning systems or holes that allow you to lie face down safely, while providing room for your growing belly and breasts. Or you might lie on your side with the support of pillows and cushions.
Can pregnant women get massages?
Prenatal massages are generally considered safe after the first trimester, as long as you get the green light from your practitioner and you let your massage therapist know you’re pregnant. But you’ll want to avoid massage during the first three months of pregnancy as it may trigger dizziness and add to morning sickness.
Despite myths you might have heard, there’s is no magic eject button that will accidentally disrupt your pregnancy, and there isn't much solid scientific proof that specific types of massage can have an effect one way or the other. Some massage therapists avoid certain pressure points, including the one between the anklebone and heel, because of concern that it may trigger contractions, but the evidence on whether massage actually can kickstart labor is inconclusive (to nonexistent).
It is a good idea to avoid having your tummy massaged, since pressure on that area when you're pregnant can make you uncomfortable.
If you are in the second half of your pregnancy (after the fourth month), don't lie on your back during your massage; the weight of your baby and uterus can compress blood vessels and reduce circulation to your placenta, creating more problems than any massage can cure.
And don’t expect deep tissue work on your legs during a prenatal massage. While gentle pressure is safe (and can feel heavenly!), pregnant women are particularly susceptible to blood clots, which deep massage work can dislodge. That, in turn, can be risky. On other body parts, the pressure can be firm and as deep or as gentle as you’d like. Always communicate with your therapist about what feels good — and if something starts to hurt."