When Mother’s Day Stings: A discussion of The Intersection Of Perinatal Depression And Relationship Trauma History
Well, April just flew by and we are suddenly entering May, which for many mothers is a joyful time to embrace and partake of festivities.
Also for honoring seasoned caregivers who play a strong role in nurturing the new generation of nurturers.
However, for some childbearing women, motherhood may not be a happy time. Due to a range of reasons, approximately 20% (or more) of all childbearing women may experience perinatal depression or anxiety (PSI, 2017).
It is never a woman’s fault that she develops perinatal depression/anxiety (PMAD).
Rather, a complex interplay of biological, hormonal, neurological, and environmental events can blend to create the perfect storm for an “episode.”
Fortunately, these eruptions of psychological pain are temporary and can be resolved with excellent care by trained practitioners (therapists, psychiatrists, doulas, lactation consultants, pediatricians, Ob/Gyns) and a supportive tribe of helpers (healthy extended family and friends, etc).
Furthermore, a subset of those women who experience a PMAD also have relationship trauma/loss history which can include physical, emotional, sexual abuse by a prior caregiver/parent or a current romantic relationship.
It is these women who are exponentially more vulnerable to not only developing a PMAD but also experiencing more severe “episodes”, due to the layers of trauma/loss woven into the already challenging sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, role and identity changes that jolt a new mother into this chapter of her life.
It is this subset of women which I am devoting this article to, in an effort to provide some solace, that there is hope to heal and recover, even in the face of the Hallmark commercials depicting the myths and expectations of what motherhood “should” look like, but very clearly does not for many women.
So, May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, and with that comes social media posts galore about the prevalence of maternal depression and anxiety. Thankfully, with the help of the internet age and technology, maternal mental health is one of the “in” topics addressed across all dimensions of media.
In general, I am pleased to see mental health awareness evolving into a less stigmatized topic over the span of the last decade and beyond.
However, even with a tremendous amount of advocacy on many levels, there is still much work to be done to completely incorporate maternal and family wellness from the standpoint of mental health into the mainstream discussion and to ensure adequate and competent care for mothers and families.
Do you know anything about postpartum psychosis? Watch out the video
Many organizations have worked and continue to work diligently to press for legislation, training, and awareness of maternal mental health (some of those are listed at the bottom of the article).
Barriers to care continue to be a problem for families who are disadvantaged, impoverished, or face financial, geographical or discriminatory challenges of any kind.
Women in unsafe relationships (whether familial, romantic or work-related) are particularly isolated and at risk for a more complicated recovery unless they are linked with supportive and competent mental health care which includes a trauma-informed approach.
Karyl McBride, PhD, P.C., is considered one of the pioneers in the research, writing and treating of adult children of narcissistic parents. Her website, books, and literature are groundbreaking and very helpful for adult survivors of psychological abuse by a narcissistic parent.
I often refer my mom clients to Dr. McBride’s writings when I discover that my client carries the trauma of emotional abuse, with her family-of-origin pain is rising back up in the form of flashbacks. At just the moment my client is trying to bond with her baby and make the passage to motherhood, she may be plagued with feelings of doubting her ability to be able to love her own baby unconditionally based upon the blueprint she was given as a child.