SDH Promotes Maternal Mental Health and Awareness of Maternal Mood Disorders

In recognition of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has produced the first video in a series, which shines a light on resilient women in Oklahoma who have experienced a diagnosis of postpartum depression and/or postpartum anxiety. The series presents their stories of courage and strength, and how they navigated what can be a difficult struggle to overcome. 

Maternal mood disorders is the umbrella term for mood and anxiety disorders, which occur during pregnancy or up to one year after a mother gives birth. The stigma around mental health also surrounds maternal mental health and has resulted in fewer discussions around diagnoses such as postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, and postpartum psychosis. 

Postpartum depression is the number one complication in pregnancy throughout the United States.  In Oklahoma, 15 percent of new mothers in Oklahoma report symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, change in appetite, sadness, mood swings, less energy, increased crying, or persistent anger.

Many of these symptoms are mirrored in the “baby blues,” however, baby blues differs in severity and onset.  Baby blues should not last longer than two to three weeks after delivery; and will impact many more mothers. Postpartum depression will be more intense, and most importantly will result in significantly impaired functioning with symptoms such as crying more often or crying all day for multiple days, and unwanted thoughts of harming oneself or the baby.

The OSDH urges all pregnant mothers and fathers to talk with their doctor about screening for risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. Creating a postpartum plan with scheduled calls and visits from the mother’s support system, regular walks outside for increasing vitamin D and lowering stress levels, hydration, scheduled rest when possible and adequate nutrition sets the new mom up for success. 

The first video of the series highlights Dyanna Hicks, a former police officer who is currently a nursing student and mother.

James Craig, OSDH public health social work coordinator, said Hicks’ story illustrates that as a mother, former police officer, and future nurse she is an example of how this is an issue impacting our sisters, best friends, mothers, and fathers in Oklahoma. 

“I wanted to participate in the project because after having been through one of the hardest moments in my life, I will do anything in the world to make sure another woman never has to feel the way I did,” said Hicks. “Speaking out about this is not easy, but I wanted to share my own story in hopes it will inspire others to reach out, get help and not feel so alone.” 

Hicks tells the story of her journey shortly after birth, realizing that the emerging symptoms she felt were distancing her further from feeling like herself, and feeling increasingly intense anxiety and depressive symptoms. She discusses the harmful thoughts she began to find entering her mind, losing more and more sleep to her anxiety over her daughter’s sleep safety, to finding herself wondering if her daughter would be better off without her as a mother. Her story continues with finding help with a support group of other women who express similar symptoms, a supportive and caring husband who was there beside her at every turn, and a therapist who has been appropriately trained in working with women with this struggle who worked alongside her to give her tools to combat these symptoms. 

For help and support call the Postpartum Support International (PSI) Helpline at 1-800-944-4773. For more local information, please visit www.health.ok.gov using the keyword “mood” or email jamescc@health.ok.gov.  

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