@30SecondMom of the Week: @DrCHibbert On #Mom #MentalHealth; #Pregnancy to #EmptyNest by Elisa Schmitz
Since becoming a mom, do you feel like you’ve been on an emotional roller coaster? You’re not alone! A staggering 80 percent of women experience emotional changes during the postpartum period, and 20 percent suffer from postpartum depression. To commemorate Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re featuring the amazing Dr. Christina Hibbert, a clinical psychologist specializing in Postpartum Mental Health, as our 30Second Mom of the Week! She has been a featured 30Second Mom contributor for nearly a year, providing our community with a wealth of great information and support on emotional health, parenting and personal development. Watch this beautiful video Dr. Christi made to commemorate the 30Second Mom anniversary. She touches my heart, and I know she’ll touch yours, too!
To enable you to connect with Dr. Christi, we’re excited to introduce “Ask Dr. Christi,” where members of our community can ask their mommy mental health questions and receive real-life answers from our resident expert!
Q: You’ve been an expert in “Mommy Mental Health” for some time. How did you first get involved?
A: I had postpartum depression four times. I wanted to help others, so I studied postpartum depression in grad school and produced a video on it. I also volunteered with Postpartum Support International (PSI), and started an Arizona Postpartum Depression Coalition. As I’ve grown as a mom and psychologist, I’ve become an expert on mental health at all phases of motherhood, pregnancy to empty nest. This month, I’m collaborating with PSI for a Maternal Mental Health Awareness Blog Hop. Join us! For more information, follow @PostpartumHelp, @BirthTouch, @unxpctdblessing on Twitter and use hashtags #ppdchat and #PSIBlog.
Q: Why is it so important to raise awareness of Maternal Mental Health?
A: Women and families often don’t realize the childbearing years are toughest on mental health. Motherhood is tough on mental and emotional health. Lack of sleep, long days, always being “on” can take its toll. Pregnancy depression affects 15 percent of all moms. Postpartum depression affects up to 20 percent. PMS and PMDD (more severe PMS) are most common in a woman’s 30s, after childbearing. And then there’s perimenopause, which can also cause depression or anxiety in many women. Women (and their partners) who understand maternal mental health will be better able to stay healthy and keep families strong. So, I’m sharing tips to keep mentally strong through four main phases of motherhood.
Q: Let’s start with pregnancy. What should pregnant women know about their mental health?
A: Mental health in pregnancy and postpartum actually begins before you conceive. Developing healthy habits like good nutrition, sleep, exercise, and time to evaluate and work through issues is key to later wellness. Any hormonal “event” in a woman’s life is likely to disrupt her mentally and emotionally. Pregnancy is usually the first biggie. First-time moms and dads are also adjusting to becoming a parent. It’s a huge life change. Thus, pregnant women should expect some change in their mental health. It’s “normal” to feel emotionally “abnormal” at this time. But, it’s important in pregnancy to also watch for depression, anxiety and to know when you need to seek help.
Q: What do women/families need to know about postpartum mental health?
A: 1) You’re not alone. 80 percent of women experience emotional changes (The Baby Blues) and 20 percent have postpartum depression. There’s a spectrum of Perinatal Mood Disorders, from Depression to Anxiety to OCD to PTSD to Psychosis. And, all of these disorders are TREATABLE. So, 2) Seek help as soon as you need it. For more on PPD treatment, visit this article on my site. Even for moms without PPD, the first year postpartum is tough. It has the highest divorce rate even! Work with your partner; support each other; talk; hold each other; seek outside help as needed. For more on self-help, check out this post. Sleep is a huge factor in maternal mental well-being, so make it a priority! This post provides more information on postpartum sleep. Remember PSI’s message: 1) You’re not alone. 2) You’re not to blame. 3) With help, you will be well. And here’s more of my PPD story and my “16 I’d Like My Postpartum Self To Know, 16 Years & 6 Kids Later.”
Q: I assume these tips apply throughout motherhood, too. What can we add for those in “middle mom” years, as you call it?
A: Yes. Tips like, “sleep, nutrition, exercise, making mental health a priority, talking, support,” apply across motherhood. In middle mom years, it’s important to monitor mental health needs, and ask for help as needed. Check out these tips on How To Get Your Needs Met. Having a good support system is key at all phases, and especially in the middle, when life is truly crazy busy. Enlisting practical help from others to help drive, teach, and even parent your kids can take some of the stress off and keep you healthy. Watch out for PMS, which is common in these years. Talk with your doctor more about menstrual cycle and mental health. Most important? Focus on the “now.” Enjoy your family. If you can’t, seek help. You’ll miss them soon enough.
Q: Which leads nicely into “Empty Nest” mental health. What do you suggest for women at this phase?
A: I’m not there yet, but I work all the time with empty nesters who are depressed/anxious now that kids are gone. They don’t feel “needed” anymore. Many feel “lost.” They no longer know who they are or even what they like to do. It’s an important lesson for us all: Take care of YOU while you raise your kids. Don’t lose yourself. Pursue your interests as you can. It’s great for you, and for your kids. You’ll inspire them to do the same! Also, be on the lookout for emotional changes in perimenopause, the time leading to your last period. Perimenopause can cause significant mental health changes. Seek help from medical/mental health providers who understand hormones and the brain. And, you’re always needed. Even if they’re not there with you. They love you. They need you. It’s just a new phase of life, and it can be a great one if you let it.
Q: We could chat about this topic for days! Any last words for moms?
A: As moms, we hold ourselves to such high standards. We can feel we’re the only ones not measuring up! So, I want to say, “I’m with ya!” We all feel that way at times. You’re in good company. Trust me! My mom’s day post says it all: 1) You’re not alone. 2) You’re better than you realize. 3) YOU ARE ENOUGH. And don’t forget to join the #PSIBlog Hop – you’ll really see you’re not alone! Visit Postpartum Support International’s website for resources, phone/online support and info. A fab organization!
Have a mental health question for Dr. Christi? We want to hear from you! Each week, Dr. Christi will answer a question from our 30Second Mom community. To submit your question for consideration, simply Contact Us!
Dr. Christi will be our featured subject matter expert at #30SecondMom Twitter chat on Wednesday, May 22, 8pmCT, so please join us! Make sure to visit Dr. Christi’s website and Facebook page, and follow her on Twitter!