In the first weeks and months postpartum, the realities of new parenthood can be a whopper. Many new parents find this time hard, especially during this pandemic when most people don’t have the support they’d normally have. Remember that “new normal” that most families find around 6 weeks? That might feel like forever at this point.
This is a good time to check in about maternal mental health. Partners can struggle with mental health too. Here are some good resources:
- Maternal Mental Health Issues This online article includes risk factors (any of these that can be addressed can help make postpartum life easier), things to help, local resources, what partners can do.
There’s a big range between thriving and needing clinical mental health services. This article has suggestions for things that can help in that space.
- Self assessment tool: This version of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Edinburg Screening & Care Guide, includes valuable information about risk factors and where to find help. This is the form your health care provider would use if they screened for maternal mental health.
- Self assessment tool: The Postpartum Progress Checklist has more questions than the EPDS. It can be used to facilitate discussion between postpartum clients and their health care providers.
If you’re struggling, then here are some things to consider as next steps:
- Gather up support. Postpartum doulas come to your place and help with all manner of maternal, infant and family needs.
- Ask the public-health nurse to come over for a chat.
- Make an appointment with your doctor or midwife. Bring your self-assessment tools and/or concerns.
- There are private counsellors who are specifically trained in postpartum care. If you have a health plan at work or in-house mental health counsellor, then that will be your fastest route to get counselling and psych services.
- Call 811 if you need non-emergent medical advice as they are often well-trained in postpartum mental health.
- Get medical attention today, immediately if you have thoughts of harming self or baby. This usually means a trip to the ER and is a valid reason to call 911.
- In case of psychosis, call 911.
I want to reassure you of two things in case medical help is needed:
- Breastfeeding is still possible with almost all mental health drugs and many physiatrists will help with that. (Many women are reluctant to get help for fear of not being able to BF.) One of my clients needed antipsychotic medications that weren’t good for breastfeeding. Her physiatrist and pharmacist came up with a schedule where she could pump and feed her baby for 8 hours daily. She recovered and went on to breastfeed her baby for over a year!
- Your local pharmacist is the most knowledgeable person about medications and breastfeeding. If you’re breastfeeding, then always ask them for advice before filling a prescription.
- Families are kept together during mental illness, as long as there’s one healthy adult (parent, grandparent, relative or close friend as guardian) to care for the baby. If a parent has to be admitted to the psych unit then the baby stays with the other parent or guardian. Family visits with the mentally ill parent are arranged as soon as possible. A few of my clients have been down this road and it’s not easy but they received excellent care and recovered.
I teach a variety of Child Birth Education classes and prenatal workshops online for people all over. I have been a birth doula since 2002, and have helped over 300 clients with their births and over 1000 through prenatal classes. Learn more about my birth doula services, and contact me with any questions you may have.