Maternal Mental Health

May 15, 2024
| by:
Councilmember Christine Ellis

In the euphoria of childbirth, we often forget to talk about the darker side of motherhood – postpartum depression. It’s time to shine a light on this silent struggle and emphasize the importance of maternal mental health.

Congress acted for the first time this month to officially recognize Maternal Mental Health Awareness. As a registered nurse, who is passionate about mental health, I wanted to leverage this opportunity and educate our Chandler community.

Every year, millions of women experience postpartum depression. It’s a serious condition that can have profound effects on the mother, child and family. The stigma attached to mental health issues can prevent new mothers from seeking the help they desperately need, leaving them to suffer in silence.

One of the biggest hurdles in addressing postpartum depression is the misconception that it’s just the "baby blues" and will go away on its own. “Baby blues” are a mild and temporary form of depression that goes away once hormones level out.

While it’s normal for new mothers to experience mood swings and feelings of sadness in the days following childbirth, postpartum depression is much more than that. It’s a serious, but highly treatable, mental health condition that can last for months or even years if left untreated.

According to John Hopkins University, untreated depression and anxiety during pregnancy is associated with preterm delivery, higher startle reflex in babies and gestational diabetes. Postpartum depression symptoms and severity are more likely among woman with a history of anxiety or mood disorders, a family history and genetics.

The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include anxiety, sadness, anger and irritability, difficulty sleeping and intrusive thoughts of harming the baby. Woman who had anxiety or depression before giving birth are at higher risk.

The consequences of untreated postpartum depression can be devastating. Not only does it affect the mother’s well-being, but it can also have long-term effects on the child’s development. Studies have shown that children of mothers who suffer from postpartum depression are more likely to experience behavioral problems, cognitive delays and emotional difficulties later in life.

That’s why it’s crucial for our community to prioritize maternal mental health. We need new moms to feel comfortable talking about their mental health without fear of judgment or stigma. Healthcare providers need to be equipped to identify and treat postpartum depression early on.

It’s not just about treating postpartum depression after it occurs; it’s also about preventing it in the first place. This means providing better support for new mothers, both during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. This includes access to counseling services, peer support groups, medication therapy and education about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.

Talk to your healthcare provider or seek support through organizations that advocate for maternal mental health care:

The most important thing to know about postpartum mood disorders is that they are highly treatable and not something a new mother needs to be ashamed about. My advice to expectant and new mothers is to be proactive, invest in your mental well-being and talk with healthcare providers about care available before and after childbirth.