Let's take a closer look at some Maternal Mental Health Myths

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month! With that in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions associated with a parent’s mental health and look at some resources available to you.

Are you feeling a little down? A little less like yourself? Have you experienced a loss of interest in doing the things that bring you joy and substituted that with feelings of worry, guilt, hopelessness, or irritability? These are all common symptoms of Post-Partum Depression (PPD) or Post-Partum Anxiety (PPA). The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) considers PPD to be a common but serious medical condition affecting 10-20% of mothers in the first year after giving birth. Let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding PPD/PPA and some resources available to you to overcome it!  

Myth: You can’t breastfeed if you are taking mental health medications.

There are medications available that make it possible to continue breastfeeding your baby. The ABM states that all antidepressant medications can be found in breastmilk but that doesn’t mean they harm your baby. You and your doctor will decide together which medication is best for you. Looking at how much of the drug makes it into the baby, medications such as SSRIs (Zoloft) were found to be undetectable levels in the babies of mothers who breastfed in most cases. If you are already taking an antidepressant your doctor may assess the risk of continuing that same medication as long as it is not unsafe for the baby. LactMed is a good resource to use to help find what medications are safe to take during pregnancy.

Myth: I would know if I had PPD or Post-Partum Anxiety (PPA).

Some studies have found that up to 50% of women with PPD will go undiagnosed. Sometimes it can be hard for you to see the signs in yourself, or you may not even know what to look for. Feeling a little blue is completely normal but if it lasts more than 2 weeks or you have some red flags it may be time to see your doctor. Red flags can be feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness. Feelings of anger or scary and unwanted thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.  Feelings of anger or scary and unwanted thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.  Difficulty bonding with the baby, losing interest in things you enjoy or having sleep or eating difficulties. Your doctor can use screening tools such as EPDS, PHQ-9 and PASS. Red flags can be feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness. If you see any of these symptoms in yourself or someone you know, get help as soon as possible so you can get back on the right track.

Myth: I must take medication to treat a mental health disorder.

Medication is not the only treatment option. In fact, most providers will try some form of therapy or counseling before trying any medications. Support from your family members and friends can go a long way, especially if they are able to help at night so you can get some extra sleep. The goal would be to get at least 5-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep which is possible if you have someone else feed the baby for one of the nighttime feeds or someone can bring the baby to your breast while you sleep so baby can get their midnight snack in. Sunlight and exercise can help, you could try taking a walk with your baby on a bright sunny day. Eating a healthy diet and getting in some much-needed relaxation can also boost your mood. You could try a yoga class, meditation and relaxation techniques.


PPD and PPA aren’t the only mental health disorders to be on the lookout for, some of the others include panic disorders, OCD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or postpartum psychosis. If you think you may be experiencing any of these then reach out to your doctor or a trusted family member or friend for help.

National Helpline open 24/7 365 days a year.

LactMed

Postpartum Support International (PSI)

PSI Helpline English/Spanish call 800-944-4773 or

Text “Help” to 800-944-4773 for English

Text “Help” to 971-203-7773 for Spanish 

*Special thanks to Caroline Flores, an IBCLC student, who contributed to this blog post. Thanks Caroline! 

Post Author:

Stephanie Glover, LPN, IBCLC (Board Certified Lactation Consultant)

Contact Stephanie:  Send a Portal Message

Phone: 910-892-1333

Visit our Breastfeeding Services page

stephanie glover, lpn

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