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The Mental Health Challenges of New Parenthood

Hannah Feliciano, LMFT, shares highlights from her presentation, “The Hard Truths of New Parenthood.”

The Mental Health Challenges of New Parenthood Transcript

Hello, everyone! My name is Hannah Feliciano, and I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist here in Tennessee. I’ve been practicing for a little over five years, and I currently work at Insight Counseling Centers in the Nashville area. If you weren’t able to join me for the presentation about the mental health challenges of new parenthood, I just wanted to share a little bit about some of the key points and takeaways. 

Something that’s really important, I think, that we don’t talk a whole lot about is how to know what to look for in ourselves as potential mothers and fathers. A lot of times, we might think about postpartum issues starting directly after giving birth, but it can actually start during the stages before, even in preconception and conception. This can happen, especially for mothers, but there are postpartum depression, anxiety, and other diagnoses for males or fathers as well that often goes overlooked and isn’t discussed. So, those are two really important things that we need more awareness around. 

Understanding what the diagnoses are is also crucial. While everyone talks about postpartum depression, there’s also postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis. These are less known and talked about, so it’s important to shed light on them. 

When we think about risk factors, various factors may contribute to postpartum depression, anxiety, etc. These factors include low social support, financial struggles, unplanned pregnancies, educational levels, employment status, and even health factors. Your history of mental illness before pregnancy can also be a contributing factor. 

For men, things that can contribute to their struggles include marital discord, income levels, living in poverty, the mother’s depression, their own history of mental health issues, sleep changes, and even hormonal changes. 

Another key point is the transformation into motherhood, which is similar to adolescence but often not talked about. This transition is known as “matrescence.” It encompasses the psychological, social, biological, political, and spiritual shifts that occur from preconception and can last throughout the lifespan. This word can help normalize the changes women go through during motherhood and provide a language to understand and discuss these transformations. 

The main point is that we need to talk more about this, provide support, and make sure people know about it. After I became a mom, I was on a mission to teach everybody about this word because it helped me so much in normalizing what I was feeling, and I wanted everyone to know about it. 

Lastly, the key takeaway is how to help yourself and your partner if you’re struggling with a diagnosis or even just the transition itself, which is challenging on its own. Research has shown that having a serene pregnancy, social support during pregnancy and after, employment, exercise, proper nutrition, and support from your spiritual and religious community can be protective factors against postpartum depression, anxiety, etc. You can also find humor in the transition and the day-to-day experiences of parenthood, and, of course, reach out for therapy or counseling if needed. It’s important to know that there is support available, so don’t suffer in silence. 

Let’s continue to talk about this and support each other, so that new parents can find the help and resources they need. 

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