Mom. One of the most powerful words we know. We want to take a moment to celebrate all the victories and joys the mothers in our lives create every day. But we also want to support them in the unseen (and often unsaid) difficulties they face.
Being a mom isn’t easy. And one of the best things you can do for mothers is support their mental health. Here’s what you can do for them this Mother’s Day.
Supporting Moms (And All Women)
It seems logical that when you see a problem the best thing to do is to offer corrective advice, right? What many people don’t realize is that criticism and judgment are rarely helpful in supporting a mom or women in general - no matter if she’s a new mom or a very experienced one or your sister or cousin or friend.
Women are under a lot of pressure from themselves and from the demands of work, children, family, and friends. They’re more than twice as likely as men to experience depression, but the majority of them won’t seek help.
Instead of focusing on the negatives about the women and mothers in your life, support them, encourage them to get the mental health care they need, and find ways relieve pressure from their female friends, coworkers, and family.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Since it’s Mother’s Day, we want to focus on one particular mental health issue that far too many new mothers face: postpartum depression.
It’s not a myth or some made up illness. It’s real. In fact, the Center for Disease Control reports that one in nine women experience some form of postpartum depression.
What does it look like?
Women experiencing postpartum depression experience many symptoms ranging from subtle to extreme. So don’t discount any symptoms.
Common symptoms range from sadness to hopelessness, guilt to fear. Give yourself a little time to see if symptoms disappear. But if they don’t start to improve within two weeks, you need to seek help.
Other symptoms include sleeplessness, crying, extreme mood swings, disinterest in life, and difficulty concentrating. If you experience any of these symptoms, you’re not alone, and it’s not your imagination.
What causes PPD?
A new mom faces recovery. Whether you had a C-section or delivered vaginally, your body has gone through a lot. Quite often this bodily exhaustion shows up mentally.
A new mom’s whole life has changed at rapid-fire speed, and these changes aren’t just external. Sure there’s a new addition to the family, but there’s also lots of internal changes and pressures, too.
Then add hormonal changes that accompany delivery and breastfeeding, and your body can go into system overload. All of these physical changes can lead PPD.
Add to the mix sleepless nights and other external stressors (relational pressures, high expectations, emotional exhaustion, etc.), and you’ve got yourself a pretty good recipe for PPD.
What You Can Do To Help
Whether you’re a friend, partner, or family member, the best way to support a new mom is to listen. Being a mom is a huge learning curve so let them learn and support them in their learning. Offer advice when they’re ready for it and listen when they’re not.
One of the best ways you can help a new mom is to adjust your expectations and help her be realistic in her own expectations. She has no way of knowing what she can handle with a new baby.
Other than trial and error, the best way for her to adjust expectations is by encouragement from a friend. Let her know that there is no shame in struggling with mental health after a baby, and encourage her to talk to her doctor if PPD symptoms persist.
A Helping Hand
Above all offer a helping hand when she’s at her wit’s end. She’s tired, overwhelmed, and sometimes fearful. Be that friend that helps carry the burden rather than being a burden and give her the luxury of a few minutes to herself.
If you want to help women dealing with PPD, raise awareness about the struggles of PPD. Talk about your experience on social media and over coffee and at work. Your words may help another mom walking the same path.
Another way to help? Raise awareness for longer parental leave from work after having a baby. Without paid maternity leave, many moms feel pressure to return to work as quickly as possible.
Such stress often has a negative impact on their relationship to the baby and to their relationship with their partner or loved ones. On the positive side, women who take 12 weeks of maternity leave are less likely to experience depression.
All this to say, listen, encourage, and offer a helping hand. In one word, support. And to all you moms out there, thank you! Every day you make the world a better place.
Dastagir, Alia E. "Parenting Is Freaking Hard and We Should Be Honest about It." USA Today, September 21, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/09/21/moms-mental-health-everything/677653001/.
"Depression Among Women." Center for Disease Control and Prevention(blog), December 13, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm.
"Depression In Women." Mental Health America. April 27, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2018. http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-women.
"A Link between Paid Maternity Leave and Mental Health." Interview. Harvard: School of Public Health(blog), May 13, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/maternity-leave-and-mental-health/.
Holohan, Megan. "The Problem with Parental Leave in the US and How Other Policies Compare." Today(blog), November 20, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.today.com/health/problem-parental-leave-u-s-t38701.
Hyde, Jane S., Marjorie H. Klein, Marilyn J. Essex, and Roseanne Clark. "Maternity Leave and Women's Mental Health." Psychology of Women19 (1995): 257-85. Accessed May 10, 2018. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1471-6402.1995.tb00291.x.
Manzella, Christiane, and Deena Blanchard. "Pediatricians Have the Power to Improve Moms' Mental Health." Psychology Today(blog), January 8, 2018. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-s-mental-health-matters/201801/pediatricians-have-the-power-improve-moms-mental-health.
Silver, Katie. "'Third of Mothers' Experience Mental Health Issues." BBC News, November 28, 2017. Accessed May 10, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42140028.
Todd, Nivin. "Postpartum Depression: What You Should Know." WebMD(blog), July 26, 2016. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/understanding-postpartum-depression-basics#2.
Wallace, Kelly, and Jen Christensen. "The Benefits of Paid Leave for Children Are Real, Majority of Research Says." CNN, October 29, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2015/10/29/health/paid-leave-benefits-to-children-research/index.html.
"What Is Postpartum Depression & Anxiety?" American Psychological Association(blog). Accessed May 10, 2018. http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.aspx.
Developed by Cycle Technologies, Dot™ uses a patent-pending contraceptive technology based on Dynamic Optimal Timing™. Learn more about Dot on our website www.DotTheApp.com and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. To subscribe to our newsletter, please click here.