You are reading the second post in a series on Maternal Mental Health. Read part 1 here.
Why am I feeling so angry? How come everything my husband and children do make me so irritated? It’s not like me to scream at my loved ones. Why am I not totally in love with my new baby? I feel so overwhelmed with taking care of my baby, trying to stay on top of laundry and struggling with insomnia. What’s wrong with me? I feel so alone. What am I supposed to do? A Christian woman shouldn’t have these thoughts, right?
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever had any of these thoughts? Maybe a friend shared with you that she hasn’t been sleeping well and is really irritable with everyone. Maybe someone from work mentioned that his wife won’t let anyone hold the newborn baby. Perhaps his wife has told others that she’s the only one who knows how to care for the baby and doesn’t trust anyone else to even change the baby’s diaper or give him a bath.
These are all symptoms of perinatal mood disorders.
Women can and do experience these symptoms and disorders in varying degrees, Christian or not. Thankfully, they are all temporary and treatable with the right help.
As Christian women we can often think that we are somehow impervious to struggling with anxiety or depression related to pregnancy and postpartum. “Strong Christian women don’t have these struggles,” we tell ourselves. “I used to run a company now I can’t even get out of bed.” When we finally realize something is wrong and that we can no longer fake having it all together, where do we go to for help? Where do we go to for hope?
We live in a fallen world by which our entire being (emotions, beliefs, bodies, and minds) is susceptible to the brokenness caused by original sin. It means that our emotions are not always accurate. What we feel and what is true according to God’s Word may not always match up. We struggle to love our spouse perfectly. We may yell at our children. We lack love in failing to help our neighbor. But what are some of the possible implications of going through pregnancy and giving birth in a fallen world?
Just how common is it?
According to the Postpartum Support International, 1 in 7 women will experience a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMADS). PMADS are no discriminator of race, ethnicity, religious belief or lack thereof. PMADS affect women of all ages, ethnicities and birth experiences. Fathers are not excluded from experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) either.
2020Mom notes that only 15 percent of women with PPD actually get the treatment they need. This can be for various reasons such as lack of available resources, lack of funds and lack of screening just to name a few. The negative stigma that can go along with having a PMAD also plays a role. Have you ever known someone who should have sought help but never took action because of the perceived stigma they felt they would attract from the greater community? This is not as uncommon as we may think.
What exactly are the disorders?
What PMADS Are
The term “perinatal” covers the span of time from pregnancy up through the first year of the baby’s life. PMADS can be the result of a number of factors including traumatic birth experience, past sexual abuse or assault, history of anxiety or other mood disorders, financial stress, lack of sleep, hormonal changes/imbalance and more. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that with PPD, the feelings of depression and anxiety can become so extreme to the point where the mother is unable to care for herself or her baby.
*For a full list of PMADS symptoms, misconceptions, and causes, please see the first post in this series.
This is serious stuff. And yet, there is hope in Christ.
During this time of uncertainty and struggle, remember the truths of who God is even if you are struggling to believe it at the time. You are not alone. The Lord has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6). He gives you a future and a hope that outlasts what you are presently going through (Jeremiah 29:11). Your God meets you in the depths of the valley to give you His comfort, His peace, His presence, Himself. He raises you up and sets your feet upon a rock that you may stand for in your weakness you are strong. You can cry out to God and know that He will hear you (Psalm 40). As you hope in Him you will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). God will not fail you.
Counseling- For believers, meeting with a biblical counselor to focus on the spiritual growth issues related to the postpartum struggle is recommended. Delving deeper into the challenges with anxiety and or depression while learning to look to Christ as your hope during this dark time is what your soul needs. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, such as psychosis or suicidal thoughts, a hospitalization may be the next best step as you work with a psychiatrist and medical staff to help keep you and baby safe.
Mentoring- Your counselor can also help you get connected to an older godly woman to provide spiritual support and encouragement outside of the counseling room. This should be a trustworthy woman who will faithfully pray for and listen to you.
Spiritual Friendship- If you are able, joining a local MOPS (Mother of Preschoolers) group or other network with moms in your season of life will also be helpful. Solid trustworthy friendships where you can share with godly friends who will listen and faithfully pray for you as you work through this season of your life will help provide overall better care for you, your baby and family. Your story and care needs may not be the same as someone else’s and that’s ok. The goal is to get help so that you and baby are well and safe.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a perinatal mood disorder, there are many resources you can contact. There are various online and in-person support groups for women and families. Treatment looks different for each woman as each woman experiences her own needs and symptoms. Some women really struggle when medication is needed. Try to remember that the current treatment plan is not forever and that the next best step is to make healthy decisions for you and your baby. The support systems mentioned above can work together to provide the soul care, physical and mental health care that you and your family need during this season.
If you are not adjusting to motherhood well, that’s ok. If you aren’t bonding well with your baby, there is help and hope for you. If you are experiencing a lot of anxiety during pregnancy, there is support for you. You are not alone and with help, things will get better.
Postpartum Support International (PSI), http://www.postpartum.net/