I really don’t know of any women who go into pregnancy wanting or expecting to be a bad mom. We want to do it all: have the baby, get back in shape, feel rested and refreshed, have a clean house, healthy meals for the family, start the new baby in music, swim, sign language classes, and all of this while having a great hair day.
This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but many women set very high expectations for themselves during pregnancy and after the baby is born. When these expectations are not met – and in reality they rarely are – women feel disappointed, discouraged, and even feel as though they have failed.
The “SuperMom” complex is one of many psychological/social risk factors for postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).
A few other psychological risk factors include:
For instance, relationship with friends who do not have children will change. New moms and dads will not be able to pick up and go whenever they want any more. Parents may not have time for activities they once enjoyed.
Any major life stressor will increase the risk for postpartum depression. Moving, starting a new job, death of a loved one, major family illness, financial problems and divorce, to name a few, can trigger depression in anyone. Add caring for a new baby, loss of sleep, and fluctuating hormones and you can see why the risk increases for mothers.
History of trauma
If the new mom has experienced abuse of any kind, rape, neglect as a child, or any other trauma, caregivers should watch for signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress.
One of the best things we can do for women is to remind them they don’t need to be perfect.
We need to redefine what it means to be SuperMom. It shouldn’t mean she has to have a tidy house, perfect body, home-cooked meals and perfect baby. Being SuperMom means she is able to care for herself and the baby, and get help when she needs it. Your redefinition could mean there are days when SuperMom …
• Doesn’t make dinner on time, or orders takeout
• Lets someone else do the laundry
• Takes a nap instead of cleaning the house when the baby is sleeping because she needs to rest, too
You can do your part to help out by encouraging the SuperMom in your life to care for herself today, or bring her dinner, do her laundry, play with the baby so she can rest, vacuum the floor, or just point out to her what she is doing well.
Postpartum depression and other PMADs are serious, impacting as many as one in five mothers of young children. Many factors can increase the chance a woman will develop a PMAD. Just as a woman can be proactive about her physical health during pregnancy, she can also reduce her risk of developing a PMAD.
Pine Rest offers a free Reducing Your Risk class as well as professional counseling to help reduce your risk for developing a PMAD. To find a class or to make an appointment, please call 866.852.4001.
PMAD Information & Resources
Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, was the Mother and Baby Partial Hospitalization Clinical Services Manager and coordinator in this program’s development. She is a member of the Healthy Kent 2020 Perinatal Mood Disorder Coalition, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the Psychiatric Nursing Council of Southwest Michigan.