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Prioritizing Maternal Mental Health

Maternal mental health is a critical yet often overlooked aspect of healthcare. A 2023 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges found that one in five birthing parents were diagnosed with a mental health disorder during pregnancy. This same study also found that this number doubles for people of color. During the transition into parenthood, supporting maternal mental health is essential not only for the parents but also for the child’s health, development, and overall well-being.

When a person is pregnant, physical, hormonal, emotional, and psychological changes can all occur at once which can take a toll on their mental well-being. In some cases, this toll may cause the pregnant person to question their ability to be a good parent or to become anxious about labor or birth. Pre-birth anxiety is common during pregnancy and can stem from worries about the baby’s health, labor and delivery, and the hospital experience in general. This anxiety may also result in both parents fearing complications during the birth that may cause harm to the birthing parent or the baby. In order to address pre-birth anxiety, it can be helpful to talk to members of your support system who have children and ask questions such as, “what was your pregnancy like?” “what can I expect during labor?” and “how did you navigate all of the change?” Your support system can consist of anyone whom you trust and feel safe around, such as friends, family, co-workers, or your doctors. “Know that you are not alone and that you are not the first person to be feeling this way,” says Rachel Hanson, Project Manager at Centerstone, “Feeling anxious and having questions does not make you a bad parent.”

Adding a new member to your family can come with many changes to your day-to-day life. Whether or not you already have children, just remember that it is okay to ask for help. “A lot of people like to think they can do everything by themselves, but there is no shame in needing help,” adds Hanson. Lean on your support system to help you with meals, laundry, errands, or helping out with your other kids if you have them.

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) hosts the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline for pregnant people and new parents. This free, confidential hotline allows new parents to talk to a trained counselor about their concerns. The hotline counselors can connect you with resources and support groups in your area as well as refer you to other healthcare professionals if additional care is needed. The hotline can be contacted through call or text and is available in both English and Spanish.

The frequency of mental health concerns during pregnancy highlights the need for comprehensive care that addresses the unique challenges faced by birthing parents. Engaging a strong support system and encouraging open communication can alleviate pre-birth anxiety and promote a healthier transition into parenthood. However, if these supports are not available or you need additional assistance, Centerstone can help. Call us at 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) or visit our counseling services page to get started today.

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