The joys of raising and nurturing a baby are practically endless for new parents, yet there remain challenges to overcome. While it may be natural to focus attention and energy on caring for a new baby, it’s equally important for mothers to maintain their own mental health.
According to Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, maternal mental health (MMH) is often negatively affected by the belief that there is only one “right” or “best” way to feed a baby. Mothers are exposed to this message through peer-to-peer communication, social media, health care providers and more.
To combat negativity, Malkani promotes the importance of family, friends, online communities and others contributing a positive impact toward MMH by recognizing all babies are different, acknowledging there’s no one “right” way to feed a baby, refraining from parent-shaming and judgement, and remembering caregivers have personal feeding decisions to make based on a variety of factors.
The saying “it takes a village” is as applicable today as ever, which is why Plum Organics and the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health partnered to share resources and information mothers can use to find support in their communities. Consider these ways moms can nurture their little ones along with their own mental well-being.
Understand the Signs of Mental Health Conditions
Depression and anxiety are the most common complications in pregnancy and postpartum, affecting 1 in 7 women, according to the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health. If you feel any of these symptoms, seek help from a health care provider: overwhelmed, weepy, anxious or nervous, angry, scared by your thoughts, like you’re not yourself, guilt, regret or shame.
Engage in Self-Care
Spending your time thinking about baby is natural, but it’s important to take care of yourself, too. Watch a movie, socialize with friends, meditate, rediscover hobbies – whatever you enjoy doing, prioritize making it part of your life again.
Join a Supportive Movement
Creating a “village” is a key step toward positive mental well-being for moms as it allows them to build support systems showing they’re not alone in their struggles. To continue efforts to destigmatize mental health challenges for moms and deliver research and support, Plum Organics and the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health are asking mothers (and their loved ones) to sign a “Pin-tition,” wherein a pin is placed on the U.S. map to indicate where participants want to build a village of support.
The movement encourages participants to put a pin on the map if:
- You think moms suffering from postpartum depression should have access to a professional trained in MMH disorders
- You think moms suffering from MMH disorders should have access to mental health providers within driving distance
- You think moms should be screened for MMH disorders during prenatal and postpartum periods
- You think OBGYNs should discuss mental health at the beginning of pregnancy
- You think mental health care is health care
- You think providers should be reimbursed by insurance for MMH care
Prioritize Physical Health
Taking care of yourself includes physical health as well as mental health. Doing yoga, walking or working out 15-30 minutes a day and nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods can help restore your sense of balance and provide a boost in self-esteem.
Find more information and drop a pin to shed light on your area by visiting PlumOrganics.com.
Mapping Out Maternal Mental Health
Intended as a resource for policy action, funding drivers and strategic planning, the Maternal Mental Health Risk Factors and Resource Maps developed by Plum Organics and the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health revealed these findings:
- The highest risk factor levels were concentrated in the Deep South with severe conditions identified in the Mississippi Delta region, Gulf Coast, greater Appalachia, New Mexico and Arizona.
- Higher risk factor levels tend to be associated with rural and less-populated regions. Conversely, most major metropolitan areas in the U.S. tend to have comparatively moderate or lower risk factor scores.
- More than 600,000 mothers will suffer from a MMH disorder in the U.S. every year. Left untreated, these disorders can have devastating impacts on a mother’s health and functioning, the baby’s health and development, and overall family stability.