Trigger Warning: Depression, Anxiety, Suicide

There has been a long history of stigma surrounding mental health as well as the struggles moms face. So when it comes to maternal mental health, there is a lot that we’re up against.

The stigma surrounding maternal mental health exists for many reasons. 

  • Lack of education and awareness about mental health
  • Limited support for mothers and their children
  • Fear of child protective services being involved or other repercussions of disclosure
  • Fear of being seen as an unfit mother
  • The belief that you’re not a good mom if you struggle mentally, emotionally, or physically
  • Frequent dismissal of women and people of color’s pain by professionals and society at large
  • Lack of mental health resources
  • Familial beliefs, such as “you can will your way out of depression or anxiety” or “anxiety and depression don’t exist.”
  • The depiction of mental illness in the media and popular culture

I know it may seem a bit bleak after reading through that list, but it’s helpful for us to know what we’re up against. It’s hard to reach out and ask for help, especially as mothers. We often blame ourselves when we’re struggling, so it’s important for us to see the barriers we face in getting help for our mental health. That way we can release the guilt that we have and then also problem-solve to get help.

During pregnancy and immediately after birth are vulnerable times for mothers regarding their mental health. Life changes dramatically, hormones are all over the place, we’re sleep-deprived, our family dynamics change, there’s an increased financial strain, and then we have a new human to care for all hours of the day. There's a bit going on. Sometimes as we’re going through this vulnerable period, we want to appear as the mom who has it all together. We might even feel guilty for feeling emotions about motherhood that could be labeled as negative.

I struggled with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety after the birth of my first child. I initially didn't want to admit it because I was worried about what that meant about me as a mom. I'm educated and professionally trained in mental health care. However, when it came to my own health, I realized I had internalized some of that stigma I listed above. None of us are immune to the stigma that has surrounded mental health forever, even mental health professionals.

The symptoms I experienced those first few months were overwhelming and made daily tasks difficult. I thought I just needed to tough it out. I wondered, was there something wrong with me that I was feeling this way? I should just be happy that my son and I survived childbirth and were healthy now. It’s hard when you’re in the thick of it to recognize what’s going on and also have compassion for yourself. 

Once I was honest with my doctor about what was going on, I was able to get the support I needed. She helped me identify what was going on, normalize my experience, and figure out the next steps. Trying to deal with it on my own wasn't working. I needed support outside of myself to care for my mental health and wellbeing, and you know what? That's okay! You and I don't have to try to manage and survive everything all on our own. It's a strength to learn to ask for help when we need it. 

Something else I needed help with was breastfeeding. Various research studies over the years have come to different conclusions about the exact relationship between breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). However, one consistent finding is that difficulties with breastfeeding are a risk factor for developing PPD (Watkins et al., 2011). Therefore, it’s also important to ask for help with breastfeeding when we need it. You can reach out to a lactation consultant, a veteran mom, or your doctor or midwife. 

One way that we can help ourselves is by understanding what to be on the lookout for. To do that we need to have a better understanding of Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Postpartum Anxiety. Let’s look at the symptoms the Mayo Clinic (2018) has identified for each of these.

{ Mariana in the Belle Nursing Dress with Isabella }

Baby Blues

A lot of mothers experience Baby Blues immediately following delivery. There are so many changes to navigate and your emotions and hormones are having to adjust as well. Baby Blues' symptoms generally start within the first few days postpartum and resolve on their own without treatment within two weeks of delivery. These symptoms can include: 

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Feeling disappointed, overwhelmed, sad
  • Trouble sleeping

Postpartum Depression

PPD can begin during pregnancy or up to 18 months after birth. For the majority of individuals, it begins within the first month after delivery. If your Baby Blues intensify or don't go away, speak with your doctor about PPD. Without treatment, symptoms can last up to a year. PPD symptoms can include:

  • Frequently feeling sad, numb, or empty
  • Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Brain fog - difficulty focusing or making decisions
  • Sleep problems - apart from waking up to care for your baby
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
  • Unusual weight fluctuation
  • Trouble functioning and caring for yourself - This is different from our struggle as moms to find time for ourselves or to ever get to shower alone. This is having the time to care for yourself and being too emotionally and physically exhausted to do so. 
  • Thoughts about hurting or killing yourself or your baby
  • Thoughts about death or dying

Postpartum Anxiety

PPA can begin during pregnancy or after delivery. New fears and worries are a typical part of becoming a new parent and learning to care for a helpless infant. However, if you find yourself having frequent, consuming, or distracting anxious or negative thoughts that get in the way of you enjoying your daily life or caring for your baby, speak with your doctor about PPA. Symptoms can include:

  • Persistent worrying and obsessing about the future
  • Intrusive or irrational thoughts about worst-case scenarios or the health and safety of your baby
  • Hyper-vigilance or being on edge 
  • Feeling of dread
  • Avoiding specific behaviors, people, places, or situations
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Irritability
  • Hard time focusing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat

{ Mariana in the Belle Nursing Dress with Isabella }

What do you do if you are experiencing symptoms of PPD or PPA?

  • Speak with your doctor or midwife about the symptoms you are experiencing.
  • Reach out to a therapist. - You can search for a therapist in your area by using Psychology Today or Therapy Den.
  • Connect with other moms. - It’s a relief to feel validated by people who understand what you’re going through. This could be through your mom-friends or a support group. You can find online support groups at Postpartum Support International.
  • Take care of your physical body.
    • Take postnatal vitamins.
    • Eat nutrient-rich foods (protein, fruits, vegetables).
    • Get outside in the sunshine. 
    • Move your body. - This could be stretching, walking your dog, or whatever feels good to you.
    • Get help from a loved one, so you can get extra sleep. For example, you and a trusted friend can take turns watching both of your children, while you switch off taking a nap.
  • Talk to a Lactation Consultant for breastfeeding support.
  • Check out one of the resources listed below.


If you are in an immediate crisis call your local emergency number, such as 9-1-1 for the United States.

If you walk away with anything today, I hope it’s the realization that…

You are not alone.

There is help available to you.

At Ellie and Becca, we design breastfeeding friendly dresses specifically for moms because we want to be part of your journey through motherhood. We believe in supporting women and honoring the strength it takes to raise children. We also firmly believe that maternal mental health matters.


Mayo Clinic (20218, September 1). Postpartum Depression.

Watkins, Stephanie MSPH, MSPT; Meltzer-Brody, Samantha MD, MPH; Zolnoun, Denniz MD, MPH; Stuebe, Alison MD, MSc Early Breastfeeding Experiences and Postpartum Depression, Obstetrics & Gynecology: August 2011 - Volume 118 - Issue 2 Part 1 - p 214-221 doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182260a2d

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