Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month & Why Jessica Zucker, PhD, wants to talk about it

May is maternal mental health awareness month, which focuses on the emotional and mental health hurdles that every mother faces, but that some struggle to overcome. 

Motherhood is tough and few women get all the support they need. It’s especially daunting for women who lack access to the mental health support they need to survive what can be a minefield of emotions, challenges and often times, traumas.

Jessica Zucker, PhD is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Los Angeles who specializes in maternal mental health. She writes about the mental health struggles mothers rarely talk about and about how de-stigmatizing common experiences like miscarriage, postpartum depression and perinatal anxiety is crucial. Zucker wrote, “We shouldn’t feel ashamed of our traumas, nor should we hide the consequent grief…Is it resounding cultural shame? Speckles of self-blame? Steadfast stigma? The notion that talking about “unpleasant” things is a no-no?”

While most therapists hesitate to reveal much about their personal lives to their patients, Zucker feels there’s too much silence when it comes to maternal mental health. She’s found that sharing her own story and maternal health struggles can benefit other women and patients who are experiencing perinatal or post partum mood disorders. She recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, titled, “The Pregnant Therapist,” about seeing patients while she was pregnant and about how her own miscarriage changed her therapeutic approach. Zucker writes, “What I hope to offer my patients now, in both subtle and demonstrative ways — shared and silent — are the arduous lessons learned through personal pain and reflection. Far from a blank slate, but no longer a focal point of the therapeutic relationship, I’ve landed somewhere in between, a much more ideal middle ground.”

We agree that an essential part of getting women the help they need to thrive as mothers will only happen when we collectively stop glossing over the rough patches of motherhood and tell the whole story. Until there’s a time when all women have access to the professional support they need to navigate maternal mental health challenges, perhaps we can learn from Zucker’s example.

We can share our own struggles with the mothers in our lives. We can lift up new moms who are caught by surprise by the realities of pregnancy and birth and we can keep talking about the highs and lows of the most common experience in humanity — motherhood.

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