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Perinatal Mental Health Join Us at the ICAN Meeting

Originally published March 26, 2012.

Join us on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) of Greater Essex County (NJ) meeting, hosted by Lakeisha Dennis, at 6:30 PM in New Jersey. The meeting will be held at Seton Hall University in New Jersey in the Arts & Sciences Building, near the School of Nursing.

I will be discussing perinatal mental health, risk factors, birth trauma, differential diagnosis and the ways birth professionals can support their clients/patients.

Did you know that women are twice as likely to suffer a mood disorder than men, and this risk of depression begins at puberty? Women’s moods are influenced by biological, psychological and social factors. Are you at risk?

Join us on Tuesday evening and learn more! Read below for some insight into what feeds into a mood disorder and what can be done to manage it. You are not alone, you are not to blame, with help you will feel better. Click here for a detailed discussion of perinatal mental health.

You have been in the workforce for many years, building a career. There have been some disillusions along the way. You notice that there are more men than women at your office. And being part of a mostly male management team is not so easy. There’s a football pool, which you try to participate in, but you don’t know much about football. And for lunch, sometimes a group will go down the street to the city’s nearest strip bar. One night, when your team is staying late at work to help solve a problem, you notice that one of women’s blouse is wet. She recently had a baby, and is breastfeeding. Her breasts are leaking; she needs to pump her milk. But she keeps on working, acting as if nothing is wrong. Things are not what they really taught you about in school. You wonder what this workforce is really all about. You think, did I sign up for this? How will I fit a child into my life?

You have some ambivalence about having a child. You think about how scary it felt to be a small child and to hear your parents fighting. You say to yourself, it will be different for me; we don’t fight! You’ve been married for a few years, you and your husband are simpatico, and you’re anxious to get your family started.

And then, there you are, excited and happy to be pregnant. But, as you time goes on, there are some worries gnawing at you. And the worries seem to intrude more and more on your everyday thoughts; at night, your mind takes on a life of its own. You are concerned about what type of parent you will be, you feel as if you’ve no concrete training in this monumental endeavor. You lay awake at night wondering if you are too selfish to be a mom. After all, you have been working in the corporate world for many years. You wonder if you can sort through all the information about babies and parenting. Which products are safe? It’s awful to hear about the contaminants in plastics , and your baby will be using those things!

As you wonder about what type of parent you will be, maybe flashbacks from your childhood are suddenly making an appearance, things you have not thought about in a long time. The sound of your father’s loud voice, the ugly scenes that occurred after he’d been drinking, the feeling of hiding under your bed as the house reeled with anger. You try to push these thoughts away, but you are not successful. Why are they coming back now, you think angrily.

Current research does not show a clear picture of all the factors as to why women suffer from perinatal mood disorders. It seems that a convergence of biological, psychological and social – biopsychosocial – factors play a role in the intensification of anxiety and mood disorders during the childbearing year. Click here for a detailed list of risk factors. In other words, it is likely that past personal issues, hormonal changes and stressors from your current situation can create a vulnerability to mood disorders in the childbearing year.

Some self-help ways to manage anxiety is to practice relaxation every day for 20 minutes a day. Relaxation is an acquired skill. You can catch small pockets of stress-reduction time during the day and just breathe quietly and calmly. But it is a real treat to yourself if you go to a quiet place, relax your body, picture your baby happily ensconced in your womb and let yourself breathe easy, slow breaths.

If you need some help relaxing, downloading or creating your own MP3 track of guided imagery is a nice option. Studies show that just eight weeks of relaxation practice makes huge difference in anxiety levels. An easy prenatal yoga practice is another great stress reducer. Expressive journaling can help relieve stress. It is also wise to set up a postpartum support plan, so you will have help after the baby comes. It is a good idea to budget some funds for some postpartum help. I have created the BirthTouch® Postpartum Plan Form, which you can see here, with lots of good supportive self-care measures you can incorporate into your birth plan. Remember a good postpartum doula can help you get some sleep, which will help you have a balanced emotional state. Click here for an article about postpartum doulas. Having a plan will give you and your family an agreed upon blueprint to follow when you are not feeling well.

If you are experiencing extreme anxiety that intrudes on your life, panic attacks, or unpleasant flashbacks, then see your doctor immediately. S/he can determine if you need medication. Get a referral to a good therapist. Befrienders Worldwide is a great referral resource. So is Postpartum Support International.


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