Celebrating Maternal Mental Health Month: Statistics And Considerations

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated July 11, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mothers are often at risk of various mental health challenges due to unique societal, cultural, and gender-based factors. Maternal Mental Health Month was developed to address mental wellness for mothers before, during, and after pregnancy. There are various ways to celebrate during the month of May, whether you’re looking to support a mother in your life or you want to prioritize your own mental wellness. Finding ways to consider mothers year-round can lead to an increased understanding of the mental health barriers they may face. 

A man in a blue jean jacket wraps his arm around his mom as they sit at a talbe outside and smile at the camera.
Getty/Halfpoint
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What is Maternal Mental Health Month? 

According to Postpartum Support International, International Maternal Mental Health Month, starting with World Maternal Mental Health Day on May 1st. Although not yet an officially recognized holiday, Maternal Mental Health Month began as part of an effort to fight stigma surrounding the mental health of mothers. It focuses on the value of protecting new and existing mothers from mental health challenges and aims to raise awareness of support options. The goals of World Maternal Mental Health Day and Maternal Mental Health Month include the following: 

  • Supporting mothers experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs), such as postpartum depression 
  • Raising awareness of maternal mental health statistics
  • Raising awareness of reproductive rights laws
  • Increasing awareness of the importance of mental healthcare in prenatal and postpartum care for mothers

Postpartum Support International reports that 7 out of 10 women downplay or hide symptoms of a mental health condition. Driving international awareness of the commonality of maternal mental health conditions may reduce stigma and encourage more mothers to seek support. 

Maternal mental health statistics

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that one in five women experiences a mental health disorder in the months before or after giving birth, and many do not receive adequate care for these challenges.

During and after pregnancy, some mothers may experience severe anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Although it’s rare, others may also develop postpartum psychosis, which can be a severe and life-threatening condition. 

Outside of perinatal and postpartum mental health challenges, mothers may face unique mental health barriers, including but not limited to: 

  • Unfair treatment from a co-parent 
  • A  of being a single parent or risk of being a single parent 
  • A lack of fair household or child-rearing duties in a co-parenting relationship
  • Difficulty finding support or resources as a mother with older children 
  • Invalidation from healthcare professionals 
  • A loss of individual identity due to societal stigma and pressure
  • A higher chance of traumatic events like birth trauma 
  • Pressure to always enjoy parenthood or be 100% productive all of the time 
  • Lack of life-saving reproductive care 
  • Invalidation about reproductive choices 
  • Shame and guilt about parenting choices, often due to stigma 
  • A sense of pressure to be a homemaker or abandon one’s dreams to care for children 
  • A sense of shame when seeking support

Risk factors for mental illnesses

There is no one single factor that may determine whether a mother develops a mental illness. However, a few risk factors may contribute, including but not limited to the following: 

  • A history of mental illness before becoming a mother 
  • A lack of a support system, including being a single parent or not having family and community support
  • Birth trauma
  • A history of a traumatic event 
  • A family history of mental illness and postpartum mental health conditions 
  • A lack of professional support resources in one’s area
  • A lack of education about parenting and postpartum mental health 
  • Exposure to sexism and harmful gender stereotypes 
  • Restrictive reproductive health laws
  • Physical health conditions or complications due to birth or parenting
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Abuse from a partner or co-parent 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • The obligation to care for a child or children almost 100% on their own 

How to celebrate a mom in your life 

If you know a mother, whether they’ve recently had a baby or they have older children, it may be beneficial to show support and care during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. Consider the following ways to celebrate a mom in your life. 

Getty/Zach Wolfe

Ask how you can be a support

Because many women aren’t likely to ask for support when they desire it, you might not pick up on when someone needs help. Instead of assuming the individual will come to you or show specific symptoms, you might ask how you can help them. A few phrases you could use include the following: 

  • “How can I best support your mental health and emotional well-being right now?” 
  • “Is there any way I can take some burden off of you?” 
  • “How have you been feeling lately?”
  • “Are there any items you need from the store?” 
  • “Have you received a mental health screening recently?” 
  • “What would make you feel most loved right now?” 
  • “How is your mental health right now?” 
  • “Is there a way I could help reduce stress in your life?”
  • “Do you need someone to watch your children while you take a self-care day?” 
  • “I’m here for you if you need any support at all.” 

You might offer support regardless of whether a person requests it. However, if they decline, you can be respectful of their boundaries and understand that it’s not personal. You might also consider discussing some of your own challenges to show them they’re not alone and that it’s safe to reach out to you if they need to. 

Consider a self-care basket gift

In some cases, mothers may put their own needs and enjoyment aside to care for their children and others in their lives. However, maternal self-care can be crucial for reducing stress and preventing burnout. Consider sending a mother in your life a self-care basket to remind them to practice self-care in daily life. You might include the following types of items: 

  • Their favorite snacks 
  • Lotions and scented hygiene products
  • An adult coloring book and pens
  • A journal with a fancy pen
  • A gift card for a membership to a gym if they enjoy exercise and workouts
  • A kind letter, poem, or note
  • Flowers
  • A daily affirmation calendar 
  • A gift card for a store they enjoy
  • A voucher for a self-care day during which you will watch their children 
  • Artisanal products like cheese, wine, or soap
  • Items related to their hobbies

It may help to come up with ideas based on their personality and interests. You might also ask them questions throughout the month to learn more about what they like. 

Spend quality time together

Social connection can be critical for mental and physical wellness. Consider spending time with a mother in your life to show them you care and enjoy their company. It might also be meaningful to spend time with them when their children are present and take an interest in their children’s lives and interests. 

How to consider your mental health for Maternal Mental Health Month

If you are a mother, there are a few ways you might prioritize your mental health this year, including the following: 

Get a mental health screening

Whether you’re a new mom or you have had kids for a while, it can be helpful to get a mental health screening to ensure you are staying attentive to symptoms and receiving support. You can take an initial screening on sites like that of Mental Health America (MHA). You can then take your results to a primary care appointment with your doctor or to a therapy session. A doctor or therapist can also provide a screening and talk to you about the next steps. 

Try something new

Consider trying a new hobby or activity to learn more about yourself and what you enjoy. You could also consider taking a class, such as a cooking class, language course, or trade skill course. If you’re experiencing difficulty finding childcare and need time for self-care, consider contacting someone you trust or looking for low-cost childcare options in your area. 

Ask for help 

Mothers may hesitate to ask for help if they believe they should be taking care of everything alone. However, one person can only do so much. It may help to speak up about your needs. If you have a partner who is not contributing enough to childcare, you might let them know what you need from them and implement healthy boundaries to ensure the household duties are fair. If your partner does not help you, it may be beneficial to try couples therapy to discuss your needs in further detail. You can also consider contacting parenting groups, friends, and family members. 

Find community 

Having a community of people who understand your experiences may be a way to improve your mental health. Consider joining a mothers’ group or a support group for people with postpartum mental illnesses. Postpartum Support International has an online support group tool to help you find options in your area of need. 

Attend or organize an event 

You might consider looking for local Maternal Mental Health Month events or leading efforts to organize an event yourself. Events could include fundraisers for maternal resources, a parade or fair, or a space for mothers to get together with their children and discuss their businesses, ideas, and challenges in a safe environment. 

A mother holding a baby sits across from her female therapist during a therapy session.
Getty/SDI Productions
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Talk to a therapist

If you’re experiencing mental health challenges as a mother, you’re not alone. Mental illness as a parent is valid and real, and it can be crucial to seek help when you first notice symptoms. You don’t have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to receive therapy, and a therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms and move forward. 

If you’re busy with childcare and struggle to find time for in-person support, you can also consider online therapy. With an online platform like BetterHelp, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions and select the session time that best works for you, including outside of standard business hours. 

Numerous studies demonstrate the effectiveness of online therapy for parents. In one study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers found that parents achieved increased psychological flexibility and emotion regulation after participating in a web-based therapeutic program. Another study published in the journal Midwifery found that telehealth therapy programs can significantly reduce symptoms of postpartum depression.  

Takeaway

Maternal Mental Health Month serves as a time to recognize the mental health needs of mothers around the world. Mothers are often at risk of conditions like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and stress related to childcare. If you’re experiencing difficulty with your mental health, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online or in your area. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience supporting mothers facing various mental health challenges. Take the first step toward getting support as a mother and contact BetterHelp today.
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