How do I know when to start therapy?
Mental health, particularly in pregnancy or after having a baby, is hard to define. There is no blood test or written test to confirm a diagnosis. And in our world and culture, mental health has a negative stigma – struggling with mental health has the connotation that someone is “less than;” that they are flawed and broken, and there is no future or hope for them. I believe that asking for help, reaching out for help, is a sign of strength, not weakness. It takes an enormous about of courage, energy, and intuition to realize that something is not right and want to make a change. I am always in awe of women who can take the first step towards change.
And because there is no test for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD), we measure the need for help in an elusive way. If the symptoms or struggles happen more often than not, more days than not in a two-week period AND if the symptoms and struggles interfere with her ability to take care of herself and her family. When both of those are true, I encourage new parents to reach out for help. Women are at risk of PMAD for the first two years after giving birth; in the first year, the most common spikes in symptoms are at 1 month postpartum, 3-4 months postpartum, and 8-9 months postpartum. PMAD can show up almost immediately after birth, or months down the road – the faster you reach for help and work with a professional, the shorter the symptoms last. Partners are also at risk for PMAD – studies show that fathers are most at risk 3-6 months postpartum. Often just as mothers are starting to improve and feel better, their husbands begin to struggle and decompensate. We all have bad days and we can all have a bad couple of days but if you’re having trouble breaking out of the pattern, it’s time to consider asking for help.
Reach out to a friend or family member you trust. Ask for help. Call for a free consultation.