Before having a child of my own, I spent 3.5 years working in a home based child abuse prevention program. I would screen new mothers for postpartum depression and help link them to mental health resources, while I was working on my master’s degree in social work to be a therapist myself. I would listen to them talk about “postpartum” when referencing their emotional state after giving birth and constantly heard the phrase, “I have mommy brain” or “I don’t know what’s going on with me, I’m not myself.” Never did I truly understand the weight of these phrases until I gave birth to my daughter earlier this year.
When discussing maternal mental health, most people only know to ask about postpartum depression (PPD), but there are so many more facets of maternal mental health that need to be asked about and talked about in general. Physicians screen for PPD at appointments, but most of the time the screen isn’t discussed with the mother unless she scores in the “high risk” category and no follow-up is made if not. The questions ask about sleep, joy, laughter, and coping. I remember answering these questions three weeks postpartum and at the time thinking, “well, duh, I am not coping as well as before because I am learning a new role.” So I was honest, but I didn’t have a “high” score on the screen, so the physician saw the low score and then didn’t ask me a single additional question about my mental health. If the PPD screen was low, I must be doing fine right?
At this very appointment, I had actually been having intrusive thoughts and fears since being released from the hospital that somehow my child was going to be hurt. I had these scary images of her