Women & Mental Health
Tune Into Your Body To Increase Resiliency and Happiness
Communicating– Family Health Histories
National Diabetes Awareness Month
As soon as her baby was born, Anna felt a change. Something wasn’t right. She feared for her baby’s safety to an extreme degree. She would sit awake, staring at her baby through the night, terrified something would go wrong, and her daughter would die. After feeding, Anna wouldn’t allow herself to leave her baby’s side for even a moment, worrying something would happen in her absence.
As her daughter grew older, Anna felt intense anxiety that she was doing everything wrong: she hadn’t read to her daughter enough, she hadn’t cleaned up enough, she hadn’t completed enough puzzles with her child. Like many mothers, Anna held it together at work and with friends—the people who saw her every day didn’t know anything was wrong. But on the inside, she was bubbling over with anxiety.
One day, she found herself screaming into a pillow for release, and she knew then she needed help. As supervisor of the Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) Birthing Center in Vermont, Anna was in a knowledgeable position—she knew where to reach out for help.
Is What I’m Feeling Normal?
Feelings of depression, compulsion or anxiety do not mean a woman is a bad mother; they also do not mean she doesn’t love her baby. Many expectant mothers imagine motherhood will be fulfilling and uplifting. But when the baby is born, they may not feel that way at all. Mothers may experience depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A mother may experience PTSD as a result of a real or perceived trauma during delivery or following delivery. This can happen due to a feeling of powerlessness or a lack of support during delivery, an unplanned C-section or a newborn going to intensive care. Postpartum Support International (PSI) estimates around 9% of women experience PTSD following childbirth.
If you are experiencing anxiety, flashbacks or nightmares, you are not alone and it is not your fault.
What Should I Do If I Have These Feelings?
There are screening tools to help find troubling feelings. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) is a 10-question screening tool that asks mothers to consider their feelings over the week leading up to the test. In the NMC Birthing Center, the EPDS is conducted after delivery, within the two or three days that a new mother stays in the hospital, two weeks after delivery and six weeks postpartum.
“[These feelings] can be easy to brush off,” Anna says. “But it’s okay to say, ‘Something isn’t right. I’m not okay.’” When a mother doessay this, nurses might follow up with questions like: “Can you tell me more about that? What does it feel like?” Nurses can help attach vocabulary and understanding to certain feelings. A mother experiencing these unsettling and frightening feelings should not push them away.
Everything can feel strange following a birth, so be gentle and honest with yourself about your feelings. If you are experiencing troubling or upsetting feelings, ask your nurse or doctor if they can help you find programs and resources. Many mental health agencies offer programs that can help, or there may be counselors in your area that can offer the right kind of support.
It can be helpful to find a solid support system that encourages open, honest communication—this can make all the difference for expectant and postpartum mothers. For Anna, talking to her family and her doctor provided her with the support she needed.
Anna hopes that by sharing her story she can help more mothers feel comfortable about expressing their feelings. Every mother is on her own journey, but she need not travel alone.
By Meredith Vaughn
My mom is not only a strong mother, but a strong woman.
She’s the woman who packed up her tiny life to move to NYC at 16 years-old. She’s the woman who had a special needs child, and then another child after that – on her own.
She’s the woman who started her own business with no college degree, and made it to the top in a man’s world. She is strength and dignity and beauty all wrapped into one.
Any girl who grew up with a mother like this – the kind who won’t take no for an answer; the kind who will drive two hours to pick you up in the middle of the night; the kind who can solve any problem with a phone call – has learned a few things from her.
Mom’s words will always be the loudest ones in your head. They will always ring clear when you need that extra push from her tenacious, compassionate, lionesse-heart. From being her daughter, she has taught you so much about being a woman:
- When someone tells you that you can’t do something, do it anyways. And do it well.
- You can go it alone. And it’s better to be alone than unhappy with someone else.
- Don’t apologize for being successful. Never apologize for being great.
- Or for having a voice. It’s better to speak up and be wrong, than to not speak up at all.
- Empower other women, don’t compete with them.
- Brush it off. There will always be people who put you down, but don’t mind them. Their shittiness is more about them than it is about you.
- Do things that make you feel pretty. When you feel beautiful inside, you look beautiful outside.
- Be humble. Big-headed people are just insecure.
- Always have a little black dress in your closet. And sometimes two.
- Don’t let other people’s accomplishments intimidate you. Use it to feed your hunger for success.
- Do your squats. Feel blessed to have that big booty.
- Don’t go to sleep with your makeup on. In 20 years you’ll be thankful.
- It’s okay to love yourself. It doesn’t make you narcissistic; it makes you confident.
- In order to lift yourself up, don’t knock someone else down. It won’t get you anywhere bigger, better, or faster.
- Don’t compare yourself to other women. It won’t make you better.
- Take pride in being a woman. We’re so much luckier than men are. *wink*
- Your body’s a temple. Respect it; be kind to it; love it.
- Use condoms. Seriously.
- Do your kegels. Seriously.
- Don’t write your story before you’ve even opened the book. Things change, plans change; life happens.
- Don’t let boys be mean to you. Don’t cry over anyone who wouldn’t cry over you.
- Forgiving someone doesn’t make you a doormat. It makes you healthy.
- And apologizing doesn’t make you weak. It shows growth.
- Accept a compliment with a smile. But inside you can scream FUCK. YEAH.
- If a man wants to give you a gift, let him. And no, it doesn’t mean you owe him something.
- It’s okay to cry. And to laugh, and to scream. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Sleeping around won’t make you feel good. Your body should only be shared with the special ones.
- Focus your energy on making yourself better, not making others worse.
- Wear red lipstick, and own it.
- If someone wrongs you, let it go, and move on. Success is the best revenge.
- Primping should feel like a treat, not like a job.
- Don’t aim to be perfect, aim to be human.
- The three best things in life are chocolate, champagne, and sex.And that’s the truth.