Your Maternal Mental Health Guide!

Article by: Caroline Hammond, LPC-A & Carly Shannon-Rigby, LPC-S


The word might conjure images of selfless love, caring for others, self-sacrifice, and maternal intuition. But what about the complex process of becoming a mother and learning to be a parent? We assume those skills are innate, and that, when the baby is delivered, these instincts naturally spring from a deep well within the mother/birthing person. 

Despite this magical thinking, becoming a mother is a complex, developmental transition that we have a name for: matrescene. 

Matrescence represents an enormous life change, often bringing shifts in a woman/birthing person’s career, in partner or family relationships, in relationship with self, and within one’s body. 

You might have heard of the baby blues, but you might not have heard of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). PMADs represent a group of disorders that can occur during pregnancy and postpartum and include: postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. 

PMADs are the number-one complication associated with childbirth.

Here are some other important stats:

  • For nearly 20% of mothers/birthing people, the transition to parenthood brings about feelings of anxiety and depression. 
  • 1 in 5 expecting mothers/birthing people will experience a PMAD.
  • In Texas, it is estimated that 15-20% of new mothers/birthing people experience symptoms of postpartum depression.
  • 50% of all PMADs develop during pregnancy. 
  • 80% of PMAD cases go undetected and undiagnosed in the United States. 
  • In the U.S., PMADs and substance abuse are the leading causes of maternal mortality.

Risk factors for developing PMAD include: a history of depression and anxiety, low marital satisfaction, domestic violence, lack of social support, and isolation. Women who develop those symptoms during pregnancy are at a much higher risk for them to continue and worsen during the perinatal period (The Motherhood Center, 2023). 

The good news is that PMADs are treatable, and once treated, lead to better outcomes for both the parent and baby! It is important to reach out to a mental health clinician who can appropriately screen for PMADs and provide effective treatment. Treatment options include individual therapy, group counseling and psychiatric treatment. 

What about everyday prevention?

Maternal Self-Care Tips

“What do the flight attendants tell you to do in case there is an emergency and the oxygen masks drop?” 

This is a question I like to ask my maternal clients when talking about the overloads of motherhood. To their reply: “Put on your oxygen mask first before assisting children or the elderly.” While this is a simple question to answer, this is not so simple to follow on a day-to-day basis. In motherhood, most of us are asking,  “Where is my mask anyway?”

Motherhood brings great challenges to a lot of people. I have found a lot of my maternal clients feel alone in their role as a caregiver. Others have talked about burnout, over-functioning, and loss of identity.

How can you practice self-care if you can’t even find your own oxygen mask?

Here are some things I have learned from my clients over the years that helped keep them swimming in the floods of motherhood:

  • Take that time out for yourself to go sit in your room to decompress, if just for 5 minutes. We all know you can’t even go to the bathroom without getting interrupted. Go and hide! It’s healthy for your kids to miss you!
  • Support system feels scarce; take advantage of those who tell you to let them know if you ever need help.  It might seem like sometimes they don’t really mean it, but reach out anyway!
  • Cutting Corners is OK! Your household will continue to function if you do not have a home cooked meal every day of the week. Who doesn’t get excited when mom pulls out the Totino’s Party Pizza from the freezer! Thursday frozen pizza nights still make memories!
  • Loss of Identity: I am going to get a little cognitive behavioral therapy here. It is typical to feel grief for past lives lived before having children. Sit in it a bit if you have to. You can also look at ways to reframe and identify how you view yourself as a mother or caregiver, and whatever that uniquely means to you!
  • Self-care is not always mani/pedi’s and massages! Self-care is any healthy outlet you use that helps fill your cup! It can be through communication of needs, setting personal limits, and being gentle with yourself when mistakes are made.
  • Move your body! This advice is not in any way, shape, or form towards physical appearance needs. It is to move around to help work stress and anxiety out of the body. Walking is a great exercise, along with wall pilates, or simply stretching. If it’s hard to get the time alone to make this happen, make the kids join, too…. Be that role model and dance party!
  • Talk About It! I hear a lot of commonalities with my maternal clients in their day-to-day struggles. If you talk about it, you will find a lot of us are feeling the same way! As caregivers, it is important for us to help each other.  Encourage each other to share, to provide space, and to say “Go to therapy!” in the most motherly way ever!

If you’re reading this and realizing more support might help, call us at 512-956-6463! We would love to help support you on your motherhood journey.


The Motherhood Center. (n.d.) Learn about PMADs

Teaford, D., McNiesh, S., Goyal, D. (2019). New mothers’ experiences with online postpartum forums. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 44(1), 40-45. doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000489

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