Did you know that around 19% of Americans suffer from anxiety, while over 8% have experienced a major depressive episode? Mental health challenges certainly aren’t rare, and when you add pregnancy hormones, the chances of experiencing mood disorders only increases. Perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) is the term used to describe distressing feelings that occur during pregnancy (perinatal) and throughout the first year after pregnancy (postpartum). If you’re concerned about your mental wellbeing while you’re pregnant, be sure to speak to your doula, they can be a listening ear and help you navigate the challenges including getting you the clinical support you need. Here’s some considerations for talking openly, honestly, and with trust.
Is Your Doula the Right Person to Talk To?
Yes, definitely! Your doula’s responsibility as a non-clinical care provider is to help you with your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, both before and shortly after pregnancy. While you’re pregnant, they can talk through your pregnancy concerns, make plans for a stress-free birth, and provide you with educational support. Doulas can also be a shoulder to cry on in times of need.
After pregnancy, one of the main roles of a doula is to look out for signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and spot any signs of a struggling mother or birthing person. If you feel like your mental health is taking a turn, they’ll be there with a plan and resources to help you.
What Should You Tell Your Doula?
If you have existing mental health conditions, be sure that your doula knows in advance. Being honest about the severity of your mental illness can help your doula design better care for you. Let them know if you’ve ever sought professional care – such as visiting a therapist or seeking anxiety treatment – and be open about your fears.
Remember, your doula is a non-clinical health professional, so they’re someone you can trust to give you the tailored support. The more they know about your mental health, the better able they’ll be to help you.
How Can Your Doula Help?
Doulas are trained to deal with mental health challenges and can provide emotional support. Doulas can be there when you need to vent your feelings or talk through your pregnancy and motherhood concerns. They can provide knowledge-based advice to prepare you for life with a newborn and navigate postpartum depression. Many doulas have access to mental health resources they can provide you with, and if they access that you’re in need and what you’re dealing with is outside of their scope, they’ll work to find you the help you need.
Tips for Talking About Mental Health With Your Doula
If you’re worried about addressing mental health concerns with your doula, we’ve put together some tips to help.
Choose the Right Doula for You
Working with the right doula is a must because it is an intimate relationship! If you know that your mental health will be a worry for you during and after pregnancy, try to find a doula with experience navigating mental health. All doulas should be trained to deal with mental illness, but a specialized doula, like a postpartum doula will have more knowledge and experience. They’ll also be better equipped to deal with any serious emotional events, such as a major depressive episode or breakdown. And will be a non-judgemental presence of support. They can help coordinate care with a licensed mental health counselor.
Write Down What You Want to Say
Ease your concerns about talking to your doula by writing down what you want to say. This is a great way to organize your thoughts and make sure you don’t leave anything out. If you think you’ll be too anxious to talk, you can even write your doula a letter or hand them your notes. Once your mental health challenges are out in the open, it might feel easier to speak about it face-to-face.
Focus on Being Honest
As we’ve already mentioned, the more you tell your doula, the more they can help! When writing up your notes or talking to them, don’t try to skirt around the truth or sugarcoat what’s going on in your personal life. If you’ve had a rough time, let them know. Your doula needs an accurate idea of your past mental health history to help you get the additional support necessary and to ensure you and your baby have a bright future.
Your Doula Won’t Judge You
Your doula is a professional and is not here to judge you. You’re speaking with someone who understands how complex mental illnesses are, and you’re in good hands. Whenever you’re worried about being judged, remember that your doula’s sole concern is to support the well-being of you and your baby.
Mental health concerns are common before, during, and after pregnancy. If you’re worried about mental illness impacting your pregnancy or if you’re concerned about how you’ll cope with a newborn, your doula can help you. They can also connect you to helpful clinical resources and community-based tools. Just remember you’re not alone, speak honestly, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.