The physical needs and challenges of pregnancy get a lot of attention. However, addressing mental health needs during pregnancy is just as important. Here are some ways to help your behavioral health clients throughout their pregnancy.
Make prevention a priority.
Most providers warn pregnant women to keep an eye out for postpartum depression (PPD) after delivering their baby. However, research shows that some preventative measures during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of PPD later on.
For some high-risk clients, a low dose of antidepressants during pregnancy may be an option to help prevent PPD. However, research is lacking in this area, and some antidepressants are considered safer than others during pregnancy. Whether your client is already taking antidepressants during pregnancy or is considering taking it, carefully consider the pros and cons of this option.
Other research suggests targeting specific factors to help prevent PPD. For example, a 2021 study published in The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine recommended that providers focus on preventing and managing insomnia to help prevent PPD. This can help reduce the risks of mental health problems due to sleep disturbance and difficulties.
Encourage connections with other resources and providers.
It may take a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to keep mom healthy. If you are working with behavioral health clients during their pregnancies, make sure they have as much help as possible for improving their physical and mental wellness.
Many different social connections and community resources can help women during this challenging time. For example:
- Staying connected with friends and family members can help reduce loneliness and isolation.
- Local agencies and organizations may provide prenatal care, birthing classes, or childcare lessons to help mothers prepare for birth.
- Support from a doula may improve a mother’s mental health during pregnancy and delivery.
- Community resources, including financial counseling and food banks, may help alleviate financial difficulties and encourage proper nutrition.
Stay vigilant long after delivery.
A new mother’s mental health tends to get the most attention the first few weeks and months after delivery. However, she may continue to have behavioral health challenges long after the child is born. Some of these struggles may include:
- Adjusting to a growing child’s changing needs
- Managing her schedule and getting back to work
- Getting adequate rest and nutrition
- Asking others for help
- Relapse of drug or alcohol use
- Self-image, including getting back in physical shape
- Maintaining relationships outside of the home
- Establishing and keeping healthy boundaries
- Changes and struggles with identity
Even if a new (or established) mother struggles with any of these concerns, she may be hesitant to ask for help, feeling that she “should” be able to handle them herself. When working with your client months and even years after her delivery, keep these possible issues in mind. Be prepared to recommend solutions to help keep them manageable or even preventable.
Pregnancy is a challenging time for behavioral as well as physical health. Making sure that pregnant women have the care and resources they need is key to improving their mental health outcomes.
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