When Motherhood Brings Anxiety, Depression, and Stress

Perinatal Mental Health

By Neha Kansara, MD

The month of May is marked by Mother’s Day, a time when we collectively celebrate the joys of motherhood. But for many women, being a mom or becoming one is fraught with emotional upheaval. As a specialist in women’s health and perinatal/reproductive psychiatry, I have seen that women can struggle at every phase of the process—fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum. Here are some strategies I use with my patients to help them achieve better emotional balance in their motherhood journey.

Coping with the Stress and Anxiety of Fertility Issues

As I say to my patients who are feeling overly stressed or anxious about fertility problems, “It comes easy and very naturally to many, but you may not be one of those many.” I typically remind these women that even though becoming pregnant may not be as easy and natural as it is for others, believing in the power of being a woman and having the confidence that their body can create a human being should keep them going.

My recommendation to these women is to avoid letting the stress of infertility take over their life. Focusing on the stress creates even more stress and leads to feelings of anguish, frustration, and a sense of being a failure. This leads to grief and a sense of loss.

One of my favorite sayings is: “Always remember that difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations!” When a woman has faith and believes in the process, it enhances the ability to create the magic and have a miracle baby.

Dealing with the Emotional Ups and Downs of Pregnancy

Some women hit the pregnancy jackpot and feel like a million bucks from the day of conception until the time they deliver. They’re the lucky ones. However, there are so many others who are bedridden due to complications, such as first trimester morning sickness, spotting that leads to fears of losing a baby, second trimester gestational diabetes, third trimester fatigue or pre-eclampsia, and so on. When pregnancies don’t go smoothly, it can give birth to mood instability, anxiety, anticipated apprehension, and catastrophic thinking.

When I see patients like this, I suggest that they create an open line of communication with their obstetrician, so they feel assured that both they and their unborn fetus are in good hands.

Secondly, I recommend practicing positive affirmations, breathing exercises, prenatal yoga, and meditation because they are useful tools that help calm pregnancy-related fears and anxiety. Last but not least, mothers-to-be do not need to go it alone in this journey. It’s important for pregnant women to seek support from close friends and family and to ask for professional help if needed.

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders

The first 3 months postpartum are the most difficult phase and time in a mother’s life. It’s so challenging, it has earned the term “the fourth trimester.” For some women, this stage may last much longer than a trimester, lingering on for 2 years or even more. During this phase when they are caring for a newborn, moms are trying to be the best version of themselves while also attempting to be attentive to everyone else’s needs the way they used to—all while dealing with sleep deprivation.

This is also a phase that can be particularly challenging for maternal mental health. Postpartum symptoms, also known as PMADs (perinatal mood and anxiety disorders), can include a constellation of symptoms that are negatively influenced by hormonal imbalances, sleep deprivation, pre-morbid conditions, lack of support, difficulties in breastfeeding, and much more. For some women, a sense of pressure to be the BEST IDEAL MOM adds even more stress and contributes to postpartum depression, anxiety, trauma, and more.

I always ask new moms to pose this question to themselves: “Will I be able to create the same balance I had achieved before, and if not, what’s the worst that can happen?” Helping women walk themselves through this process to unburden themselves of the pursuit of perfection and to believe in themselves helps them succeed in feeling more joy in motherhood.

Dr. Kansara’s 7 Healing Solutions for Perinatal Mental Health Issues

Here are 7 solutions I recommend to nearly all of my patients who are experiencing emotional challenges related to motherhood.

  1. The golden rule to always keep in mind: DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE AS YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
  2. Take time out for yourself even if it is just 10-15 minutes a day. You need to breathe deeply and heal yourself first. Self-healing is extremely important in this journey.
  3. Try to incorporate a healthy diet, adequate hydration, meditation, and exercise.
  4. Take daily walks whenever possible.
  5. Practice daily post-natal yoga.
  6. Ask for help and remember that there is no shame in that. People will support you when you ask.
  7. If your mental health is suffering and interfering with your daily life or your ability to bond with or care for your baby, you may benefit from professional help. Check the Postpartum Support International for resources and support or for more personalized treatment for perinatal mental health issues, contact Amen Clinics for the best quality of care.

About the Author: Neha Kansara, MD, Amen Clinics Dallas

Dr. Neha Kansara is a double board-certified psychiatrist at Amen Clinics specializing in women’s health and perinatal/reproductive psychiatry. She also serves on the panel of Postpartum Support International. To make an appointment with Dr. Kansara or to make a referral, contact us at 888-288-9834 or on our website here.

2 Comments

  1. Fantastic

    Comment by Dr Kansara — May 5, 2021 @ 6:58 PM

  2. Very informative.

    Comment by Dr Kansara — May 5, 2021 @ 7:02 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Have a Question?