SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Motherhood is meant to be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life.
However, while juggling the responsibilities of caring for a new bundle of joy, many moms battle feelings of depression, hopelessness — and sometimes worse.
“I think as a society, you have a baby and everybody is like, ‘oh, let me see the baby, let me check on the baby, how’s the baby?’” licensed maternal mental health therapist Anne Kuhlke-Lee told WSAV.com NOW.
“Very few people ask, ‘how’s the mother?’” she said.
In Georgia, over 30,000 pregnant and postpartum women are likely to experience a perinatal mood disorder each year, Mental Health America of Georgia reports.
Maternal mental health mood disorders, like postpartum depression, impact one in five women in the United States.
It’s also reported that such mood disorders are considered the number-one complication of childbirth.
Across the state, including the Hostess City, support for maternal mental health seems to be lacking, Kuhlke-Lee shared.
“The support is minimal for specifically trained individuals in working with maternal mental health,” she said.
It’s why she and her therapist colleagues, Brandy Zinn and Bridget Cross, are doing what they can to help struggling mothers cope.
To shine a light on Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, the three counselors behind the Maternal Mental Health Collective of Savannah are sharing helpful information on Facebook through May 8.
Throughout the week, Zinn, Cross and Kuhlke-Lee, each mothers themselves, have posted videos touching on key topics, including supporting mental health during pregnancy, defining maternal mental health, why it needs to be discussed and developing a postpartum plan for wellness.
“If you know about maternal health in Georgia, especially for African-American women and minorities and the deaths that happen, I mean, something really needs to change for maternal mental health,” Kuhlke-Lee said.
She and her colleagues hope the Maternal Mental Health Collective of Savannah, which they started earlier this year, will help to somewhat alleviate that need locally.
“The mental health and well-being of the mother is really important because it affects the baby and the family,” Kuhlke-Lee said.
“If the mother’s not doing well, how can she take care of the baby? Then the baby’s needs aren’t being met, and the baby’s needs aren’t being met because the mother’s needs aren’t being met,” she said.
The counselors have all been trained by Postpartum Support International (PSI), and specialize in maternal mental health and perinatal mood disorders.
The Collective provides valuable information, support and resources for women and families during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, infertility, pregnancy, infant loss and adoption.
Kuhlke-Lee says there are a number of reasons a mother might not reach out to a therapist; lack of insurance or funds, or even the stigma of experiencing anxiety or depression during what is thought to be a joyous period.
In those cases, the therapist strongly recommends building a support system of other mothers and women who understand.
“Talk to friends, have other new mothers or other mothers that you trust, use those supports, know who to call,” Kuhlke-Lee said.
She adds that while there are some doctors out there who currently screen women during pregnancy for mental health mood disorders, it’s not a hard-and-fast standard.
The Collective aims to change that.
“We’ve found that some doctors don’t know what to do if they do screen, and so we’re hoping to educate the community, but that’s something that’s coming up later this summer through PSI,” Kuhlke-Lee said.
“Providing the right support to the mother, recognizing that there are some mood difficulties and getting appropriate treatment, you know, this is treatable,” she said.
Learn more about the Maternal Mental Health Collective of Savannah by visiting their website or Facebook page.