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Caring for mothers and children through pregnancy and postpartum

May is Maternal Mental Health Month

One out of five women will develop a perinatal mood disorder while pregnant or in the first year after having a baby. Perinatal mood disorders can also be experienced in adoption or through pregnancy/infant loss. 

These perinatal mood disorders can consist of anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Unlike other physical diagnoses, perinatal mood disorders don’t have a typically assumed time line for healing. Specifically for women with postpartum depression, while 1 in 8 are struggling, at least half of them are not receiving treatment. Additionally, people with low socioeconomic status often are afflicted with mood disorders more than a higher socioeconomic group.

Maternal mental health is one of the highest complications of the perinatal period.  Out of those 20% who may be struggling, only 25% of those go on to be diagnosed and treated. 

While 85% of women giving birth experience baby blues, 14% are diagnosed with depression and 8% are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. While those are the main identifiable diagnoses, it does not stop there for perinatal mental health diagnoses. 

Post-tramautic stress disorder or injury ramps up to about 9% of the postpartum population, obsessive-compulsive disorder is 4% and bipolar disorder is about 3%.

Another issue for women and their partners can be intrusive thoughts. These are thoughts that have to do with something happening to you or your baby. They can feel scary, but they don’t mean you want those things to happen. Intrusive thoughts are very common and simply a sign that coping mechanisms need to be learned and practiced.

Maternal health care support in Texas is lacking

A recent study in 2024 proved mental health intervention decreases potential of developing perinatal mood disorders by more than 70%, specifically in a low socioeconomic status population.  This study concluded when a mother is suffering with a perintal mood disorder, it can affect the child’s physical and mental development, proving that access to mental health care is so important for the well being of both mother and child.

In 2023, March of Dimes scored Texas a D- for maternal and infant health. Women in Texas specifically have an extremely high risk of vulnerability to negative outcomes because of the lack of health care availability and access.  The number one contributor to vulnerability in the maternal population is access to reproductive health care.  That is followed up by general health care, person’s environment, the person’s socioeconomic status, their physical health and lastly, if they abuse substances or have mental health diagnoses. 

Texas has passed a Medicaid extension so women are covered for at least a year postpartum as well as Perinatal quality collaboratives through the CDC working to improve the quality of care for both mothers and babies. Perinatal quality collaborative are state or multi-state networks of teams funded by the United States to find and improve issues of care in maternal health care.

How can you support maternal health for those around you?

It’s likely you know someone experiencing postpartum or journeying through pregnancy. Whether that’s a neighbor, friend, family member or someone at church, you can support them.

Ways to help someone in their postpartum journey include helping them find healthy amounts sleep, nutrition, movement, sunlight and time alone.

If you can help someone you know with any of those categories, it can help their healing physically and mentally tenfold. Allowing a mom to focus on building herself back up and figuring out her new rhythm is one of the best gifts you can give. 

Examples of ways to support mothers in pregnancy or postpartum seasons:

  • Bring over a home-cooked meal or even a coffee
  • Go on a walk with her for sunshine and light movement
  • Watch the baby so she can nap
  • Offer to complete a few household tasks like laundry, dishes or tidying up

It’s all relative to that mom and her needs at that time.

For maternal support, please call any of these numbers for help:

Buckner Children and Family Services also offers maternity counseling and support. Once connected to a Life Design Maternity Counselor, mothers are screened during any point of the perinatal period and can receive free counseling services to support them during this new stage of life.

Written by Emma Porter, family counselor for Life Design Maternity Services for Buckner Children and Family Services.

Find out more about maternity support.

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