Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, there is no better time to discuss the topic of mental health and pregnancy than now! Mental Health Awareness Month is a national movement to increase awareness on the importance of mental health and wellbeing.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (52.9 million in 2020). Mental illnesses include many different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe.”
Because mental health disorders are common, it is important to discuss how mental illness and treatment of mental illness should continue or begin for a pregnant or postpartum person. Today, I want to share with you some of the best resources to help you make the right decisions for you during and after pregnancy.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the launch of the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a new, confidential, toll-free hotline for expecting and new moms/parents experiencing mental health challenges.
Those who contact the hotline can receive a range of support, including brief interventions from trained counselors who are culturally and trauma-informed, as well as referrals to both community-based and telehealth providers as needed. Callers also will receive evidence-based information and referrals to support groups and other community resources.
The hotline is accessible by phone or text at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (1-833-943-5746) in English and Spanish. TTY Users can use a preferred relay service or dial 711 and then 1-833-943-5746.
*The Maternal Mental Health Hotline is not intended as an emergency response line and individuals in behavioral health crisis should continue to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).*
As an OBGYN and MFM specialist, I have heard other providers tell patients to stop taking psychiatric medications cold-turkey as soon as they become pregnant. They say this because they are concerned about the medications’ effects on the fetus. However, as reproductive psychiatrist, Dr. Kristin Lasseter says, “Even if you are thinking about what is best for the fetus itself, it’s important to remember that the illness itself is actually more risky to the fetus than most of the medications we prescribe for mental illness.”
Like other medical conditions, some individuals with mental illness are on medications before pregnancy, and others start on medication during or after pregnancy. Having an obstetrical care provider who is knowledgeable about management of mental health disorders in pregnancy, as well as medications available is crucial. It is equally as important that your provider be willing to refer you to a mental health specialist if necessary.
I highly recommend watching this in-depth conversation I had with Dr. Kristin Lasseter, where we discuss the following:
I share more about this topic on Instagram- Go to my “mental health” and “meds” highlights on IG for more resources.
In addition, there are several great books available to help new parents understand mental health, mood, anxiety and postpartum depression. I have put several of these in the Babies After 35 Amazon shop to make them easier for you to find. Here are a couple top picks:
Check out this list of 11 books on postpartum mental health on HuffPost!
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Mental illness is just as much a part of one's health as what is physical. Signs and symptoms should never be ignored, and help exists. If you are ever concerned, call your physician or save this email so that you have the resources on hand.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
Check out the products for TTC through parenthood in the Babies After 35 Amazon shop, online courses and other services that come "Dr. Clark-approved"!Check out my favorite things