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Norford: Help Available for Parent Mental Health Concerns – Pregnancy and Post-Partum

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By Lauren Norford, LICSW, Early Childhood Services Program Manager, Community Care Network – Rutland Mental Health Services


Miriam knew she should be happy about her recent birth and healthy baby. She had been edgy and irritable throughout the pregnancy, and the birth of her baby should have been cause only for celebration. Yet Miriam felt a sense of dread as she cared for her baby. She felt “imposter syndrome,” had bouts of crying and sadness, and wondered if her feelings would be discovered by someone. Sometimes she had trouble eating and sleeping due to her mood. Miriam began to doubt herself more and more and was afraid to talk to anyone about what she was feeling.


Monique was 30 weeks pregnant and in a state of constant worry. Despite her doctor’s reassurance, she always felt like something bad was going to happen to her baby. Sleep at night was difficult, and she struggled to eat enough during the day. Monique felt her anxieties must be what all pregnant parents experience, so she didn’t speak up to her providers.


John was a new dad who was shocked to find that he wasn’t enjoying parenting much. He was tired and didn’t know how to assist his partner as they cared for the new baby. He felt overwhelmed in a way that he hadn’t experienced before. People at work just kept congratulating him and making jokes about how he ‘hadn’t had to do all the work of birthing,’ so he should be happy. He didn’t visit the obstetrician and he had no idea who to talk to about these unexpected feelings.


Crystal had always wanted to be adopt a child, and so she was shocked when a toddler was placed with her and she felt unexpectedly overwhelmed and tearful about the child’s needs. She had asked to become a parent; why was she feeling this way?


While many parents have challenges with adjusting to pregnancy or the postpartum period, some parents have more difficulty than usual. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders affect 1 in 7 parents, with an even higher prevalence for parents of color. Mental health challenges and disorders are the most common complication of pregnancy. One in ten fathers also experience pre or postpartum depression or anxiety.


Parents of every culture, age, income level and race can develop perinatal mental health disorders. Symptoms can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. Although the term “postpartum depression” is most often used, there are actually several forms of illness that parents may experience, ranging from anxiety and depression, to obsessive compulsive disorder and postpartum psychosis. Parents need to know that with informed care, they can prevent a worsening of these symptoms and can fully recover. There is no reason to continue to suffer, and no parent should struggle alone with these difficult feelings.


Help is available locally, as well as through national hotlines and support groups. For information about referral to services for prevention as well as treatment, individuals can reach out to Lauren Norford with Rutland Mental Health Services at 802-786-7388 or lnorford@rmhsccn.org. Peer support providers are also available.


For information, virtual support groups and resources, individuals can reach out to Postpartum Support International at 1-800-944-4773 or visit www.postpartum.net. PSI wants parents to know that they “are not alone, not to blame, and with help they can be well!”


Additionally, parents who have dealt with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can also gather for the annual Rutland Climb Out of the Darkness. Climb out of the Darkness is the world’s largest event raising funds and awareness for the mental health of new families. In Rutland, the Climb is organized by a group of providers and parents who have both ‘been there’ and continue to support and travel alongside other parents who experience perinatal mental health concerns. The Rutland Climb is for EVERYONE—those who are still experiencing perinatal mental health concerns, those who have recovered; partners; foster, kin and adoptive caregivers; parents who have experienced losses or trauma related to birthing and caregiving–all those who know that parenting is really hard and that everyone just needs more support. It is for new families or families who have been in recovery for years but remember that it was hard to be alone.


The Rutland Climb Out of the Darkness will take place on Saturday, June 24, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Rotary Park in Rutland. The event will be a time to gather, and will feature yoga, chair massage, and small activities to honor the well-being of parents. There will be door prizes, raffles, and wellness bags for the first 20 participants at the event. Sponsors for the Climb include Rutland Regional Medical Center, VELCO, Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of the Southwest Region, Community Care Network, Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum, and Vermont Department of Health. To learn more or register, visit www.classy.org/team/481765.