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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Loiacono

Let’s Talk Maternal Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness MonthA period time that is close to my heart and home all year long.  In particular, this week was Maternal Mental Health Week.  It’s only fitting that this last day of the week Vienna turns 8 months.  8 months ago I was a different person, and just as she grows every day, as am I.  This mental health journey has been over 30 years now and as a mother, it seems to have begun back at square one.

Throughout history, pregnancy has been considered a time of “well being” for the mother, however 20% of women suffer from mood or anxiety disorders during pregnancy.  Making it more difficult to take any medications that are considered safe for a baby.  Post Partum, maternal anxiety and depression affects 1 in 5 women but is not universally screened or treated.

These statistics boggle my mind even though I am the statistic myself.  Suffering from a mood disorder as well as anxiety and depression, I was mistreated during my pregnancy and am now working to correct it post partum.  Trying to find the right therapy and the right medication is not easy.  It’s a full time job on top of the full time work we do as mothers.  Trying to figure out how to cope with hormones since puberty, feels a gazillion times worse as a new mom.  The emotions and hormone surges and drops every second of every day as our bodies are no longer ours. We are now taking care of a tiny human who we have given all of our body’s nutrients to for the last 9 months without any treatment to correct it…we are  “supposed to” let nature do it’s work, but some of us need extra help.

Since becoming young women, we are statistically more inclined to have a mental health disorder 3 times more than boys. 1 in 7 young women have ptsd…this number becomes 1 in 3 women who give birth experience birth trauma.

Not being treated correctly during pregnancy worsened my symptoms. My OBGYN and the Nurse Practitioner working with me to prescribe the correct medication for anxiety and depression did not communicate with each other. As a result, I was hospitalized for perinatal depression and early onset labor. After speaking with the hospital psychiatrist, Maternal Fetal Medicine Dr and nurses, I was told I could take my anxiety medication for the remainder of my pregnancy. Thankfully, my water would break less than a week later.

Although I was scheduled for a c-section because of gestational diabetes and severe anxiety at 39 weeks, I wound up laboring naturally for 24 hours at 38 weeks. This led to the birth trauma. Many women like me, feel as if they lose control during birthing. My husband and I were not informed of the signs that an emergency section was inevitable and then there I was, on the operating table fearing for my baby and my life. Thankfully, we were one of the lucky ones. Vienna was healthy and so was I. She was born on the same day as me. I knew she was magical from the start.

All was well until we got home. A day later, I wound up in the emergency room. After a nap, I felt like my chest was caving in. I couldn’t breathe and my heart rate was low. We rushed to the hospital at 12am fearing the worst and hoping for the best. Turns out, the water I retained during pregnancy that was ignored by my Physicians, was around my heart making it unable to beat correctly and my Blood

Pressure Over 200. I had to stay in the hospital

Overnight without my newborn baby and my husband. My mental health suffered

Greatly. Thankfully my heart is back to normal but the trauma still lingers today, eight months later. Research shows that 4-5% of women who give birth develop post traumatic stress disorder with symptoms such as flashbacks nightmares and extreme anxiety that makes daily life extremely challenging. I am one of those women.

My depression has been slowly lifting as the weather has changed, but it takes tremendous effort everyday to do the things I need to do to help learn acceptance, distract myself and self soothe when my emotional distress tolerance is low.  It takes more than a weather change to help our mental health. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support a new mother. But not just mothers, ALL WOMEN need the support. If you need help, I encourage you to seek it. Not only from family and friends, but groups of like minded women and professionals that can remind you that you’re not alone.

Love, Jackie

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