According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), one in four women suffer from depression, the extent of which can vary in length. There are different types of depression: major depressive disorder, which may require medication; seasonal affective disorder, which might be affected by lifestyle changes; chronic depression, which could require a delicate balance of treatments; and several others. Add antepartum and postpartum depression into the realm of possibility and mothers are even more likely than the general population to experience depression. With the risk factor being so high, it's important to be able to acknowledge the signs of depression, the various forms it may take, and the myriad treatment options available to those affected. Even if you're not a mother who doesn't experience depression or similar mental health conditions, it's likely that a mother you do know is living with it. Thus, there are plenty of reasons why you should care about moms battling depression.
First and foremost, women need to know that a depression diagnosis does not inhibit them from being mothers. Women can stay on anti-depressants while pregnant, as "untreated depression has its own dangers, such as low birth weight, preterm delivery and infant irritability and decreased activity." Thinking that you're unfit for pregnancy can be devastating, so inform those you love that depression and a healthy pregnancy are not mutually exclusive — you have options.
Another important issue for all parties to consider: The link between motherhood and depression remains societally relevant in that not all moms have proper access to resources. All mothers, and members of a community, even, can help to call attention to the discrepancy in resources. In order to close this mental health gap, pediatricians are combining depression treatment with the baby's appointments, according to new Medicaid guidelines. Thus, mothers aren't stretched too thin; They can better their own health along with their baby's. This practice establishes the important association between the mother's health and the health of her baby, as it helps mothers "know that helping a mother address the symptoms she’s experiencing directly benefits her child."
Mothers suffering from depression should be made aware that additional efforts are being made to combat depression. In Salt Lake City, moms are training together for a hike in hopes of bringing these issues to light. Combining activity, nature, and connection with similarly situated people helps bridge the feeling of aloneness. Mother Lindsay Aerts likens the training to one's experience with depression, noting in a statement,
The climb is symbolizing the healing from postpartum and anxiety disorders because healing is not linear, it's not flat. It feels like one day you have a good day. The next one, you have a few bad ones.
All moms need to know that they are supported — that acknowledging an illness and seeking help for its treatment not only benefits their own life, but benefits their family's life as well. Moms battling depression will likely need the help of those around them, though they might not feel up to asking for it. It can be difficult to feed and dress a child when you can't fathom feeding or dressing yourself.
Though they may not vocalize their need or their thanks as they might in a time of more level-headedness, know that your offer to watch the kids or to offer a listening ear means everything — because all women should be keeping an eye out for the moms of the world.