Maternal Mental Health: Change Is Here!
by natalie fitzgerald
Pregnancy brain. Mom brain. It’s a thing. And it doesn’t just involve forgetfulness. These “brains” produce hormones that enable a woman’s body to create life and foster growth in the womb, birth a baby, provide nourishment that ALONE can keep your baby alive and thriving. Your pregnant and postpartum brain IS in fact changed – producing and releasing different hormones that your body didn’t before. And caring for this new brain is just as important as caring for your baby.
I learned about maternal mental health after having my second baby, and suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety for the second time. I was robbed of much joy during the first year of my babies’ lives, because I denied the fact that my brain was a chemically changed brain, and did all the wrong things to try to fix it. Thankfully, after having my third baby, I was equipped with the right resources to help me gain a better understanding of how my pregnant and postpartum brain has changed, and how to manage those changes for my own sake, and that of my children.
As I began my journey to discovering how to care for my new “mom of three brain” (insert sideways crazy face emoji here!), I also realized there was very little emphasis on maternal mental health, and helping new mothers navigate how to manage this major change. Our society puts so much emphasis on caring for new babies, but what about mothers? Mothers are the lifeblood of these babies, and in order for baby to thrive, mama must be well.
A few weeks ago, California passed two laws that are truly groundbreaking and changing the future of Maternal Mental Health. AB 2193 is the Maternal Mental Health Screening and Support bill that requires OBGYNs to screen at least once for maternal depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period, AND requires health insurers to create maternal mental health programs! (Postpartum Health Alliance 9/27/18). AB 3032 Hospital Mental Health will require hospitals who work with pregnant and postpartum women to provide mental health training to staff and educate women and families about the signs of maternal mental health disorders and treatment options. (Postpartum Health Alliance 9/27/18).
The future looks bright for Maternal Mental Health programs, and brighter for the mamas out there who will benefit from these new laws, and from the overall growing awareness of such an important topic.
Natalie Fitzgerald is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Postpartum Doula. Natalie’s approach to sleep training is tailored to each family she works with, meeting them exactly where they are and developing a customized plan to help them reach their sleep goals, based on their unique baby’s needs and their parenting style. Natalie walks alongside families during the time they need the most support, encouraging parents and helping them find a rhythm that works best with their baby and lifestyle. Natalie is also a member of the Postpartum Health Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. She lives in San Diego with her family, including her three little ones: Connor (6yrs), Kate (3.5yrs), and Makenna (1yr).