Postpartum Social Support- Why It’s An Essential Part Of Improving Maternal Mental Health

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Maternal mental health complications like postpartum depression and anxiety affect 1 in 5 new Canadian mothers each and every year making it the number one birth complication to date. As a PPD survivor myself, it has completely changed my view on a lot of things, including the way in which we approach treatment and recovery in our current system and how we are missing the mark by not including and prioritizing social support for new mothers across the country.

Did you know that close to 25% of new mother struggle but only about a quarter of those moms actually get the help they need to feel better? Why is that? With it being such a huge issue, you’d think there would be treatment programs and facilities in every major hospital across the country right?! Unfortunately, that’s isn’t the case, far from it actually. Not only do we not have a single PPD specific, in-hospital program for moms in this country, but we are also failing in areas such as public education, so women and extended families can become informed about the issue and prepare themselves prenatally. Above that, we also lag in the area of engaging and educating our health care providers so that they can be better equipped to support and provide treatment options for mothers throughout the first year.

So what happens when our health care system isn’t educating families or their physicians? Women are forced to fend for themselves and figure it out all on their own! If you were ever diagnosed with cancer, you’d certainly know exactly what type it was, correct? So why is it then, that when women fall ill with mental illness, rarely do they actually receive a proper diagnosis let alone treatment? It’s just swept right under the rug and no one seems to be taking responsibly for it. Moms are continuously told “its normal to feel that way” or to “just get more sleep” and they’ll feel better. How do you think this makes a woman feel when shes actually reached out for help only to have her care provider dismiss it completely? We can do better than this…. we HAVE to do better than this!

Women are turning to the internet for answers, desperately trying to figure out what is happening and how to feel better. Mothers, who are currently in a culture that doesn’t really value their job and are expected to do this in complete isolation, are overwhelmed enough let alone trying to make sense of a mental health complication they know nothing about. Women used to mother in a circle of support, surrounded by other women who could help, mentor, listen or teach. It’s no wonder our rates of depression and anxiety are so high! Women are having realistic reactions to super unrealistic expectations!

I know things are slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to shift. Health care providers are just now beginning to open their eyes to the importance of maternal mental health and how it affects the whole family, specifically the healthy development of the new baby and other children in the home. So, while we wait for the mental health providers and physicians to get on board, I want to let you know that there is a missing level of care that moms can access right now. That level of care is Postpartum Social Support.

For the past 4 years, I have been submerged in all things postpartum mood disorders, working in an online capacity supporting mothers, educating myself and trying to navigate the system in hopes to improve it. What I’ve learned in the last 4 years is that a huge part of the issue is that moms are isolated on many different fronts. They are put on waitlists for professional help but are left with nothing while in limbo, they are sometimes just too scared to reach out to a professional right off the hop because they are so overwhelmed and don’t know where to start and lastly, not everyone struggling with a postpartum mood disorder requires intensive professional therapy.

As a certified Doula, mother of two, PPD Survivor and postpartum social support specialist, my role is to fill the gaps in care. To talk with women about the real-life “stuff” that comes along with motherhood and PPD and help lay out their options. Often times we also lack in follow up in the current system, so I am here to act as a sounding board to see if women are feeling like things are moving forward with their treatment plan. Above all, I am here to offer perspective, resources, and support because women shouldn’t have to figure this out alone. Recovery isn’t linear, not even a little bit and we know that. Postpartum Social Support isn’t about therapy because that’s not what I do, it’s about community and finding a safe place to figure things out. Postpartum Social Support looks like real relationship building and consistent care for new mothers throughout the first year regardless of mental health complications, because guess what? mothering is the hardest job on the planet and women deserve to have guidance and a safe place to land.

Just know one thing if you’re feeling hesitant about reaching out…..I’ve been there, scrolling the internet, flipping through the phone book for help and it doesn’t have to be that hard. It’s through my own lived experience with PPD that I’ve come to find my passion for maternal mental health. I love working in this area and I know this level of care can make a huge difference.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, not quite sure what to do, let’s set up a time to talk. You can reach me directly at sara@familyfirstdoulas.com and I would love to hear from you.

Sara