It was good to be back in the full swing of things, and I’m especially excited that I get to share with you the recording from this week’s event in honor of World Mental Health Awareness Week, Motherhood Matters: The Myths and Facts About Maternal Mental Health.
In this lecture, I bust some myths, stir things up and give you a whole new perspective of Maternal Mental Health.
I won’t lie, at an hour and forty minutes (1:40:00), it’s a doozy, but it’s worth the watch, because I dispel some widely and strongly held myths about women and their well being, especially when it comes to becoming, and being a mom.
But let’s be real, there’s a chance that you won’t get a chance to watch or listen to the video, so let me give you the 7 biggest takeaways:
1. First and foremost, issues pertaining to maternal mental health are under-recognized, misunderstood and undertreated. That means that those who need help don’t always know it, value it or get access to it.
2. Despite the stigma attached to mental health, mental and emotional distress is real and more typical than is acknowledged.
3. Pregnancy, birth and postpartum have begun to be recognised as a more vulnerable time for women, yet beyond the postpartum period (12 months) the emotional wellbeing of mothers is no longer on anyone’s radar. Nevertheless, studies show that as women are mothers for longer and have more children, their mental well being and life satisfaction decreases. In other words, just because you’re not pregnant or postpartum, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be struggling or that you don’t deserve help.
4. The medical model of diagnosis is helpful in organising what we know as signs of distress. However, not everyone who needs help falls into the diagnostic criteria. So just because you may not tick all the widely recognised boxes, it doesn’t mean that you’re not struggling and deserve help. It also means, that just because you do meet the diagnostic criteria, it doesn’t mean that you’re crazy!
5. Other than pinpointing known symptoms of psychological distress, there are known predictive factors that may serve us better at identifying who is most likely to be in distress and need help. Factors such as social/economic disadvantage, increased stressful life events, marital conflict/single parent, lack of familial and/or social support (both practical and emotional), previous episodes of depression/anxiety, especially with obstetric complications. Instead of just administering subjective, self-report questionnaires that often fail to pick on the nuances of the human experience, let’s take a moment to get to know one-another.
6. Meeting the practical, physical and emotional needs of baby and beyond is a big responsibility and can weigh heavy on mom. It can be especially challenging if mom herself did not experience a warm, sensitive and responsive relationship with her primary caregiver. It’s important to consider two things: 1. How is my experience being parented impacting my experience as a parent and 2. What are my needs and are they being met?
7. Women, as much as society as a whole, need to acknowledge the vulnerabilities of pregnancy, birth and beyond, as well as honour the strengths and value of women. This includes promoting a distinct postpartum period for emotional and physical recovery and transition, increased functional assistance, as well as a general reduction of shame and stigma associated with struggle, particularly among women.
It was an absolute pleasure and honour to have had the opportunity to share my passion for motherhood and mental health with a group of wonderful and wise mamas. And I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share it with you!