By Casey White of Moms Mental Health Initiative
How do you tell your partner you don’t know if you love this baby? Or I think I made a mistake having this baby.
How do you tell your friend you can’t do this ‘mom’ thing?
How do you even mutter the words “I keep thinking of all the ways I may hurt the baby”?
Too often, the answer is, you don’t. Mental health challenges during pregnancy and postpartum, also known as the perinatal period, thrive in silence. We might feel guilt or shame. Our brains run through anxious thoughts so much that we don’t even think to say them out loud. We can’t imagine speaking the truth that we’re miserable at a time people assured us would be the best and I keep thinking about how I might kill the ‘baby’ of our lives.
1 in 5 moms
Perinatal mental health conditions, like postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, substance use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, impact 1 in 5 moms. And yet, according to the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance, 75% of moms impacted by these disorders never get the help they need.
“Moms are losing their lives from these conditions,” said Sarah Ornst Bloomquist. Co-Founder and Executive Director of Moms Mental Health Initiative (MMHI). “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Bloomquist, who lives in Cedarburg, WI, started MMHI in 2016 alongside Becky Schroeder. The two women both experienced perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS). Through their experiences, they discovered how difficult it is to find the right help for these conditions.
“We’re living in a mental health crisis to begin with,” explains Bloomquist. “When you add in the unique experiences and challenges of pregnancy and the postpartum period, untrained providers can actually cause more harm to a mom’s mental health. We see it all the time.”
Now Serving the Madison, WI Area
Bloomquist’s organization started serving the Milwaukee area, expanded to Southeast Wisconsin and, as of April 2023, now serves the Madison area. The organization supports moms as they navigate perinatal mood and anxiety disorders by sharing information, connecting them to resources and providing peer-driven support. The need is clear in Wisconsin, where mental health conditions cause more than half of maternal deaths, per the latest Wisconsin Maternal Mortality data.
“We all have a responsibility to know about these conditions and guide our loved ones to the help they may need,” Bloomquist said.
So how can MMHI help you?
If you’re struggling with your mental health during pregnancy or postpartum, reach out to the organization through its social media- Facebook or Instagram– or the contact form on its website. That’s where the peer support begins – a member of the team will email you back to find out what would help you. It could be an invite to Circle of Hope- MMHI’s private, online Facebook community for perinatal moms. Maybe you want to find a therapist or prescriber. The MMHI team will ask about your preferences and insurance information and send back recommendations for providers who will see you without months-long wait lists.
If you’re a family member or friend of a struggling mom, you can guide her to the organization or even reach out yourself.
“We often work with partners to guide moms who are really struggling to the support they need,” said the organization’s Executive Director.
The organization’s business cards, designed for moms, say “You Are Not Alone.” And mama, I can personally tell you, with the right help, you will feel better.
Providers – Moms Mental Health Initiative is currently seeking therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, prescribers and primary care doctors to add to its support network for moms in the Madison area. Contact email@example.com to learn how you can get involved.