Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month in May is a time to bring awareness to postpartum depression and other psychological health issues among new mothers. Postpartum depression affects approximately 20% of new moms and can strike at any time during the first year following delivery.

Mothers with postpartum depression may be sad, nervous, and exhausted to the point that they can’t function or do many routine things for themselves or others.

No single factor has been identified as the cause of postpartum depression. However, a combination of physical and emotional elements is most likely responsible. It’s crucial to note that postpartum depression isn’t caused by something a mother does or doesn’t do.

Learn to recognize postpartum mental health symptoms

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include feeling sad or hopeless, anxious or irritable, overwhelmed, guilty, or worthless. Many women feel like they aren’t good mothers and can’t do anything right. Feeling overwhelmed and anxious after having a new baby is normal, but if the symptoms are severe and last longer than a month or so, it’s time to seek help.

Some of the more common symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Anxiety

  • Apathy towards the new baby or other children

  • Excessive crying

  • Fatigue or insomnia

  • Frequent and severe agitation

  • Feelings of hopelessness

  • Feeling alone

  • Shame or guilt

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • OCD

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is vital to seek help from a therapist or mental health professional. You are not alone, and there is help available.

Maternal mental health disorders can present in different ways

Along with postpartum depression, there are several other maternal mental health conditions that people should be aware of.

Anxiety during and after pregnancy is normal. However, when a new mother experiences intense worry or concern over the health or safety of their new baby to the point where they are losing even more sleep than usual or exhibiting other mental health symptoms- this is a red flag.

Some new moms may experience repetitive, unpleasant thoughts (obsessions) and the desire to accomplish something repeatedly (compulsions) to reduce anxiety. These are symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and although it is a common mental illness, many women don’t have symptoms until pregnancy or after delivery.

A mother who has experienced traumatic or frightening childbirth or past trauma exacerbated by delivery may start experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms can include flashbacks, intense feelings of anxiety, and an urge to avoid anything related to the traumatic event. This type of PTSD is common in parents who have a baby with medical needs that may require a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The emotional roller coaster of having a child in intensive care is something that doesn’t go away after the baby is discharged to go home.

The most severe type of maternal-related mental illness is postpartum psychosis. A mother with postpartum psychosis may hear voices or experience hallucinations. They may have false beliefs and become paranoid and suspicious of family members. Episodes of memory loss, confusion, and altered consciousness are also possible. The worst-case scenarios have involved a mother hurting her children, so it is imperative to seek mental health services before symptoms of postpartum depression or other psychological health symptoms worsen.

How the pandemic has affected the mental health of new moms

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a whole new set of complications to the experience of new motherhood. It has been a trying time to give birth, from the postponement or cancellation of celebrations such as baby showers to having to throw a prepared birth plan out the window.

Experts in maternal mental health are concerned about the emotional well-being of the present generation of expectant and new moms, who have experienced more than the usual challenges.

Since there has been limited access to prenatal appointments and delivery rooms due to COVID precautions, new moms have had far fewer options than usual for crucial support during their pregnancy and the labor and delivery process.

The barriers to talking about these issues (embarrassment, shame, guilt) get in the way of many women getting the help they need. Additionally, many new moms are unaware of the different psychological health issues that can go along with having a new baby. They may think what they’re feeling is normal when it’s not or that the depression or anxiety will eventually go away on its own. They may attribute their issues to the lack of sleep that all new parents experience. While this is true to some degree (sleep deprivation can exacerbate mental health issues), the problems will only worsen if their symptoms go untreated.

Treatment for postpartum mental health issues

It’s important to remember that postpartum mental health conditions can significantly impact both the mother and child if left untreated.

One of the most challenging things about PPD is that many women feel like they have to suffer in silence. They may be ashamed or embarrassed to admit that they’re struggling, so they don’t seek out the help that they need. This is why it’s important to raise awareness about PPD and other maternal mental health issues and let mothers know that they are not alone. There are mental health services available to help them through this difficult time.

If you are a mother struggling with PPD, please reach out for help. There is no shame in getting the treatment you need to feel better. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and it deserves just as much care and attention.

You may also do some things on your own to enhance the effectiveness of your therapy and speed up recovery.

Make positive lifestyle choices. Try to incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine. Make an effort to get enough sleep. Eat nutritious meals and avoid alcohol if at all possible.

Set reasonable goals. Don’t put pressure on yourself to accomplish everything. Reduce your expectations of perfection to what you can achieve.

Make time for self-care. Spend some quality time with your family or friends. That might mean asking a partner to look after the baby or arranging for a sitter, but it’s ok to prioritize your mental health and ask for help.

Don’t isolate yourself. Talk to your spouse, family, or friends about your feelings. If your symptoms are severe, ask for help.

If you are struggling with postpartum mental health issues, contact Serene Health. We offer a variety of behavioral health and mental health services. We also have appointments available from our telehealth platform so that you can speak to a therapist online from the comfort of your home. Call us at 844-737-3638 or visit us at to schedule an appointment.