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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Pacheco, LSW

More than Just “Mom Brain”: A Closer Look at Maternal Mental Health

More than Just “Mom Brain”: A Closer Look at Maternal Mental Health

I saw a post on my town’s Facebook mom’s group the other day: a picture of a stroller that had seemingly been forgotten on a sidewalk. The post said they drove past the stroller several times throughout the morning and decided to take it with her for safekeeping after she noticed it was still there many hours later. She posted the picture, hoping the owner would recognize and claim it. I don’t know about you, but I can get sucked into reading the thread of a good comment section under a post (and if you’re a part of any Facebook mom’s groups, you know that the comment sections can get heated at times). So naturally, I checked the comments almost immediately. One exchange in particular caught my eye. One commenter expressed concern that the baby in that stroller could have been abducted. Obviously a very scary thought, but then there was the reply:


“Sleepy moms forget to put things in the trunk lol.”


tired mom spills coffee

This was an equally scary thought, as I imagined the possibility of a mom so tired that she forgot to put the stroller into her car after (hopefully) strapping their baby safely into their car seat. All moms have been there and have experienced some version of this..


Placing the remote in the fridge,

Putting our underwear on backwards,

Forgetting to use an oven mitt when grabbing something out of the oven (OUCH!) 


Any parent will tell you that one of the hardest things about the transition into parenthood is the lack of sleep. And any mental health worker will tell you about the potential adverse effects sleep deprivation can have on your mental health. Sleep deprivation can cause difficulty with decision-making, problem-solving, regulating emotions and behaviors, and coping appropriately with change. Studies have also linked sleep depreciation with depression, suicide, and risk-taking behaviors (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 2022).


Motherhood is a time of transition that requires much learning, nurturing, and flexibility. Often, new moms must manage it all while experiencing a new level of exhaustion that they have never felt before— the type of exhaustion that causes you to do things like forget your stroller out on the sidewalk. But somehow, this has become so acceptable and almost laughable that it's just laughed off as “mom brain” instead of taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. It should come as no surprise that new moms are at a high risk of mental health issues. According to Stockhowe (2023),

“As many as 1 in 5 new mothers and 1 in 10 new dads experience some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder in many countries. Over 75% of women do not get diagnosed and do not receive adequate treatment and support.” New moms are often warned about the dangers of postpartum depression/anxiety, yet still, over 75% of women are not getting the support needed in this crucial time. 

In 2024, I would hope the stigma attached to maternal mental health wouldn’t be as pervasive as in the past, but unfortunately, it still is. This stigma, and lack of education, leave many moms to struggle with their mental health in silence. 


  • The fear that you can’t tell anyone the negative thoughts you are having because it will make you seem like a bad mom. 

  • The fear that if you’re too tired to keep waking up every 2 hours, you aren’t cut out to be a mom. 

  • The fear that someone else can raise your baby better than you can. 


These feelings of shame and inadequacy cloud our judgment and stop us from seeking help and support. Open and honest conversations can be the spark to encourage more moms to know that these struggles do not make us weak and that reaching out for support is a sign of strength. 


Let's create a world where every mom (and parent) feel safe to share their story, where their voice is met with understanding and compassion. By doing so, we will not only work towards breaking down that stigma but also pave the way for a more empathetic society where maternal mental well-being is prioritized and cherished. 


If you are struggling, please know there is support available. Our practice is focused on women helping women and we have clinicians who specialize in supporting women in any stage of motherhood. We are here to help and would love to talk with you! 




Additional Resources:

Postpartum Support International, https://www.postpartum.net

  • Use this resource to access a direct helpline and to search over 50 specialty online support groups. 

More information on postpartum depression: 

A petition calling on the United Nations to recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day: 




References:

Stockhowe, R. (2023, December 23). Call on the UN to recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day. WMMH Day. https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/call-on-the-un-to-recognize-world-maternal-mental-health-day/ 


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022a, June 15). How sleep affects your health. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep- deprivation/healtheffects#:~:text=Studies%20also%20show%20that%20sleep,%2C%20and%20risk%2Dtaking%20behavior 



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