October 10th was World Mental Health Day. According to the World Health Organization, 10 percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of new mothers experience a mental disorder. To assist with mental health management, JOHNSON’s has partnered with Expectful, the #1 Meditation and Sleep App for Fertility, Pregnancy, and Parenthood, and The Motherhood Center of New York to offer moms and families free access to the Expectful community through the end of 2020. In honor of World Mental Health Day, we caught up with Dr. Catherine Birndorf, Co-Founder and Medical Director of The Motherhood Center of New York, to bring awareness to and clear up misconceptions surrounding maternal mental health. Here’s what we learned.

New motherhood has an adjustment period
“I think that the issue is that it’s, you know, motherhood and becoming a mother is billed and passed down as something that’s like easy and natural and should be no problem, right? And not only that, it should be blissful and fun. The point, to me, that gets missed a lot is that, in a woman’s life, it’s a developmental stage. like it’s a whole thing it’s not just a, it’s not just an overnight thing, you birth the baby, and now you’re a mom,” shared Dr. Birndorf. “No one can really tell you how it’s going to be until you go through it. It would be great to have more information out there to help prepare for this, that was realistic. Oh, my gosh we’d be so much better off. I don’t think people don’t mean to tell the truth but I don’t think people are sharing the realities of how hard it is.”
Almost everyone experiences the baby blues

“It’s a stage — those baby blues, which are very hormonal. We do think it’s the hormones plummeting right after you give birth. Those first two weeks can really make people who were like weren’t criers very emotional,” Dr. Birndorf went on. “It affects almost everyone and it can get really bad. But it usually resolves within a few weeks. And if it doesn’t, then you’re into something different.”

There’s a spectrum of mental disorders that can afflict women during and after pregnancy

“It’s not just depression and it’s not just in the postpartum. So, it might be anxiety while pregnant or depression during pregnancy or depression after. It can be anything. It can be bipolar depression, right. It can be OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. If that again, that can be during pregnancy or after. It can start anew or it can be exacerbated if somebody had preexisting depression, anxiety, or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). There can also be PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. Birndorf adds. “Anything you can think of, you can just put the word during and after pregnancy and it happens and we deal with that and that’s part of PMADS (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders) or perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It’s all-encompassing.”

There has been an uptick in women experiencing PMADS amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

“It’s the isolation. It’s the lack of support and the fact that the pandemic has us all inside at different times. It has increased things like anxiety at baseline,” shared Dr. Birndorf. “We’re already worried, like how do we keep this little baby alive? How do we stay safe as a pregnant person? And now that we have this totally dependent little creature, how do we stay safe and healthy when we’ve got a global pandemic?”

Meditation can help

“That’s what so cool about Expectful and JOHNSON’s partnering cause they created a free meditation. They’re making that accessible to pregnant women and new moms,” said Dr. Birndorf. “Meditation and mindfulness are hugely helpful and that’s true with mild, moderate, or severe. Sometimes, when you’re really not feeling well, you cr.an’t meditate or be mindful, you’re just like you’re really ill and you need potentially medications, but on the milder to moderate spectrum, you know you could use something like that daily.”

Sometimes, professional help is necessary

“In more severe cases, you have to get help. You can’t treat these things by yourself. At The Motherhood Center, there’s a quick screening that we use to screen for anxiety and depression. We use a really easy self-assessment. It’s very important that you get someone in the know, an expert who can help you,” shared Dr. Birndorf. “We can see what’s really going on. We know women have these like intrusive, disturbing thoughts that something terrible is going to happen to the baby. Sometimes that’s nothing, and sometimes it’s actually a signal of illness. We know the questions to ask.”


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