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  • Writer's pictureDr. Shaenor Ishmael

Importance of Having a Maternal Mental Health Therapist

Dr. Shaenor Ishmael, MSW, LCSW

Maternal Mental Health Therapist


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Pregnancy and the postpartum period can be filled with a range of emotions. While this time is joyful for many, it can also present mental health challenges that require professional support. Working with a maternal mental health therapist can help ensure you have the care you need during this transition.


Maternal mental health is a topic that is often neglected in our society. Many women experience emotional and psychological challenges during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. However, they may not receive adequate support and treatment for their issues. This can have serious consequences not only for their well-being but also for their relationships with their partners, children, and other family members.


In this post, we'll explore why having a maternal mental health therapist is essential. Hopefully, this will begin to shed light on the invaluable role they play in the lives of mothers.


Understanding Maternal Mental Health

Maternal mental health refers to a woman's emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Hormone changes and major life adjustments can make women more vulnerable to conditions like depression, anxiety, OCD, and postpartum psychosis. Up to 1 in 5 new moms experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder.

These issues are more than just "baby blues." They are serious medical conditions that require compassionate treatment. Perinatal mood disorders often develop quickly and can affect bonding, self-care, and daily functioning. The earlier they are addressed, the better the outcomes for mom and baby.

This is where a maternal mental health therapist comes in.

A maternal mental health therapist is a professional who specializes in helping women cope with the mental health challenges that arise during the reproductive cycle. They can provide counseling, psychotherapy, medication, or other interventions that are tailored to the specific needs and preferences of each woman.


The Benefits of Having a Maternal Mental Health Therapist

As we have seen, maternal mental health therapists specialize in the unique emotional experiences and needs of new and expectant moms. Here are some of the benefits of working with one of these specialists:

  • They can help you understand your emotions and thoughts, and how they affect your behavior and actions.

  • They have a deep knowledge of perinatal mental health issues

  • They can help you develop coping skills and strategies to manage your stress and emotions in healthy ways.

  • You get to take advantage of their training in evidence-based treatment approaches

  • They can help you identify and challenge negative or distorted beliefs and thoughts that may be contributing to your distress.

  • Should you need it, they have the ability to prescribe and manage medications safely during pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • They can help you improve your communication and relationship skills with your partner, children, and other family members.

  • They will help you improve your attachment and bonding with your little one

  • They can help you enhance your self-care and wellness practices, such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, relaxation, and hobbies.

  • They can provide resources for the whole family's wellbeing

  • They can help you prevent or reduce the risk of developing more serious or chronic mental health problems, such as postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, or suicidal ideation.

  • They are a great source of nonjudgmental support throughout the perinatal journey

Connecting with one of these compassionate experts is an amazing way to get validation and hope when you need it most. You won't have to struggle alone when maternal mental health support is available.


Common areas of focus

Some common reasons new moms seek out a maternal mental health therapist include:

  • Depression: Perinatal depression impacts up to 15% of women. Symptoms include sadness, numbness, guilt, disconnection from the baby, and thoughts of self-harm. Therapy and medication can help lift depression so you can enjoy motherhood.

  • Anxiety: Intrusive worries, panic attacks, and constant tension are all signs of perinatal anxiety disorders. A maternal mental health therapist can teach you coping strategies to help you manage anxiety day-to-day.

  • Trauma: A history of pregnancy or childbirth trauma, abuse, or loss can resurface during the perinatal period. Counseling helps process and heal from past trauma while also building emotional resilience.

  • Relationships: With life changes and hormone shifts come potential relationship challenges. A therapist can help strengthen communication, intimacy, and teamwork with your partner.

  • Adjustment: The transition to parenthood can be overwhelming! Your therapist will normalize the ups and downs and provide tips for self-care, boundary setting, and adjusting expectations.

Apart from these reasons, you might also want to reach out to a maternal mental health therapist if you are dealing with issues like:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  • Bipolar disorder

  • Psychosis

  • Eating disorders

  • Substance abuse

  • Attachment difficulties

  • Grief and loss

  • Infertility

  • Miscarriage

  • Abortion

  • Adoption

  • Surrogacy

  • Domestic violence

  • Sexual abuse

  • Body image issues

  • Self-esteem issues

  • Identity issues

  • Parenting issues

  • Work-life balance issues

How to choose the right Maternal Mental Health Therapist for you

Finding a maternal mental health specialist that you connect with and trust is very important. Prioritize finding someone who has perinatal clinical experience and knowledge of medications and safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Additionally, therapy that incorporates evidence-based approaches like CBT and DBT are recommended first-line treatments.

You should not be afraid to ask questions to determine if a therapist seems like a good fit. The connection you have with them is so important. You deserve to feel heard, understood, and fully supported on your journey.

Consider reaching out to a maternal mental health therapist if you:

  • Are pregnant or postpartum and notice yourself feeling sad, anxious, irritable, numb, or disconnected from your baby

  • Feel like you need professional help dealing with exisitng issues that you may have such as eating disorders, self-esteem issues, body-image issues, and so on.

  • If you are having a hard time adjusting to parenthood after the arrival of your little one.

You can start by opening up to your OBGYN or primary care provider about what you're experiencing. Ask for referrals to maternal mental health specialists in your area. You can also look online at sites like Postpartum Support International.

If you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, go to an emergency room immediately.


Final Thoughts

Navigating new motherhood is a rollercoaster. Be compassionate with yourself and know there's no shame in needing extra support. Working with a knowledgeable, caring maternal mental health therapist will give you access to the expert care you need to feel emotionally healthy enough to truly enjoy motherhood. You've got this mama!


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