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Observing Maternal Mental Health Month this May


Observing Maternal Mental Health Month this May

Happy May! The Mindr team is welcoming the flowers that have started to bloom and disavowing the allergies (and rain!) that come along with them. What you may not know about May is that it is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. This awareness campaign is young, starting in 2016, with activists, clinicians, researchers, and other moms taking a stand to talk about an issue faced by so many women.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience some type of mood or anxiety disorder. In developing countries this number is even higher, where 15.6% of women during pregnancy and 20% of women after childbirth experience a mood disorder. It’s likely that these numbers are even greater than reported, as the WHO estimates that over 75% of these cases go undiagnosed. Sometimes these signs and symptoms don’t settle in immediately for new moms. In fact, many women do not experience symptoms for 12 months after childbirth. May is a time to elevate women’s stories, continue to advocate for scientific research on the topic, and normalize the notion that pregnancy and childbirth are crucial times to be dialed into the mental health of the mom.

The topic of maternal mental health was first introduced to the world stage with the adoption of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal #5, Maternal Health, which included maternal mental health in the agenda for the years 2000-2015. Now, with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals for global progress by 2030, mental health and substance abuse are even more directly indicated in the health targets. World leaders have committed to “prevention and treatment of noncommunicable diseases, including behavioural, developmental and neurological disorders, which constitute a major challenge for sustainable development.”

Celebrities have also played a role in heightening awareness about maternal mental health. People at the top of their fields such as Serena Williams and Cardi B have opened up about their experiences battling postpartum depression with their first babies, while navigating demanding careers. Previously, the late Princess Diana brought the issue to the global stage in 1995, while talking about her own experience with the illness “which no one ever discusses.” In 2017 Sarah Michelle Gellar shared her prior experience with postpartum depression to help normalize this issue for other women. With readily available social media and digital news platforms, we also now have the opportunity to share the stories of women who may not have the same access or resources as these high profile women.

Beyond awareness, our hope is that we can reduce incidences of postpartum depression and other mental illnesses through public and corporate policies. Multiple studies like this and this acknowledge that longer maternity leaves are best for children’s health, but go further to conclude that longer maternity leaves actually lower the risk of postpartum depression and other mental and physical health risks. These studies argue that having longer paid leaves reduce the financial burden and the guilt that can accompany new motherhood. We want this conversation to go further, for people to discuss and study the cultural norms that put mothers’ mental health at risk. This month we can converse about the pros and cons of the expectation that mothers are relied upon to ensure the health and wellbeing of the entire family unit. We can also discuss the impact of social media on mothers’ mental health. For example, what it feels like to be struggling mentally and physically postpartum when everyone else around you looks ‘together’ with a happy bouncing baby in their laps.

This May serves as a reminder that none of us are alone in any of this, and that your own mental health should always be prioritized. You can use the hashtag #maternalMHmatters to join the conversation this month.


Friday Five


Friday Five

Have you heard of pregnant stand-up? Female comedians like Ali Wong, Christina P., Amy Schumer and Natasha Leggero are leading a trend of growing their stand-up careers while pregnant, and speaking explicitly and hilariously about being an expectant mama. Through her comedy, Amy Schumer has opened up about her experience of hypermesis, while Ali Wong has basically taken over the world with her two Netflix specials filmed while pregnant. 

Peggy Alford, mother of two and senior vice president at PayPal, has just been tapped to serve on Facebook’s board of directors. She will be the first black woman and second black executive to serve on the board. In an interview with PayPal, she shared her story of choosing motherhood later in life while making time for her career.  

After Lori Lightfoot's Mayoral victory in Chicago, mother of two and former police chief Jane Castor was recently elected to serve as mayor of Tampa. Within the past month she, Lori, and Satya Rhodes-Conway of Madison, Wisconsin, have grown the number of lesbian candidates to be elected mayor of America's most populous cities from 2 to 5!  

Recently the New York Times published an obituary for Geraldine "Jerrie" Cobb, who was poised to become the first U.S. female astronaut, but due to sexism was never able to soar to space. This piece illustrates how her greatest triumphs and setbacks broke the glass ceiling for future female astronauts. 

With the Cannes Film Festival coming up in May, there is a focus to improve inclusivity among directors. Gender inclusivity is improving slightly, with four female directors scheduled to show their work out of 19 total entries. This number may seem low, but it's the highest it's been since 2011.


National Infertility Awareness Week: Addressing the (Pink) Elephant in the Room


National Infertility Awareness Week: Addressing the (Pink) Elephant in the Room

A note from Katie at Mindr: Almost every mother I know either (a) knows someone who has had a miscarriage or (b) has undergone one herself, present company included. Much is the same with infertility, another emotionally distressing but often not-discussed issue many women face.

One would imagine that these shared experiences of grief and loss would compel us to connect with one another for support. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and those of us who have experienced miscarriage, pregnancy loss or infertility feel alone in navigating through this challenging time.

After experiencing miscarriages themselves, Australia-based Samantha Payne and Gabbi Armstrong connected, identified the dearth of support for women – and men – who have faced this distress, and together founded the Pink Elephants Support Network. In recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21 - 27, 2019), we spoke with Samantha, Pink Elephant’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, about her path to cofounding Pink Elephants and its impact.

Tell us about the extraordinary Pink Elephants Support Network and your journey to founding it.

We founded Pink Elephants after experiencing our own journeys of loss and infertility. I had just had my second miscarriage. I was heartbroken, and no one seemed to understand. I was met with platitudes and well-meaning comments that were unintentionally hurtful. I found Gabbi via a Facebook post about miscarriage she had replied to, and it seemed she just ‘got it.’ I reached out, we had coffee, and there and then decided that a support network was needed. 

That was over 3 years ago. We started by researching to ensure the need was what we thought it to be, and then started to create content for our website and resources while applying for charity status. We self-funded the first year and began to fundraise the second, and we still hold fundraisers to date as we find they are a beautiful way for the community we have supported to be able to give back to other women who go through miscarriage in the future. Like paying it forward. 

We now have corporate partnerships with great companies looking to support their customers and their employees. This is a great avenue for us as it increases our reach in a relevant way in addition to providing revenue.

We are still very much a grassroots organization, where it is all hands on deck. Each of us often performs several roles in each day to ensure that we are efficient with our limited funds. This can be difficult and challenging as the demand for our service grows. However, we know we are creating a legacy, a support network that will go on past us and support thousands more couples each year. 

How did you decide upon the beautiful and unique name “Pink Elephants”?

We considered a lot of names. But we then came across the following in a story online: “When a mother Elephant loses her baby the other elephants form a circle around her and each place their trunk on her, a silent unwavering circle of support.” This gave us goosebumps and we knew instantly that this was our vision for the support network we wanted to create.

Your organization addresses the common but still relatively “taboo” topic of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. How can we help facilitate the cultural shift necessary to ensure that women and their partners who have experienced miscarriage have a voice and can get the information, support and reassurance they need?

We need to open up the dialogue around early pregnancy loss, validate it as real grief, and emphasize that miscarriage matters.

A huge part of what we do is raise awareness that miscarriage has a real impact on the couple. According to the British Medical Psychiatry Journal, miscarriage can bring on a period of significant psychological distress. When support is not provided, symptoms of anxiety and/or depression can manifest. Couples have privatized and buried their grief for too long, leaving them to feel isolated and unsupported. By validating early pregnancy loss as true grief, we allow couples to openly seek support. We also educate friends and loved ones in how to support someone through this time of need, providing practical tips and things you can say to show your support. Research highlights that people often say nothing for fear of saying the wrong thing, which is a huge shame. 

How do you manage the emotional toll of the work you and your organization are doing? What strategies do you utilize for self-care?  

To be honest, we haven’t been great at this. Our drive to continue has come from the increasing number of messages we receive from women every day. These messages thank us for giving them a safe space to have their grief heard, allowing them to connect with others who have been through a similar type of loss, and giving them the knowledge that even one other woman felt the way they did. These messages have kept us going.

For me, creating Pink Elephants was cathartic. It was my way of grieving and processing my losses. In hindsight, I can see how it has triggered more anxiety. Reading stories of miscarriage when I was pregnant again was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

We are getting better. As our organization grows, we can hopefully raise enough funds to hire staff this year to share the workload and the emotional toll. However, I can’t lie and say we have lots of strategies for self-care, as probably our biggest weakness is putting the needs of others before our own. No matter how hard this feels on some days, the grief and isolation I felt after the loss of my babies was far more painful. 

The Pink Elephant Support Network provides critical support and resources for the partners of those who have experienced miscarriage, an often-overlooked group. What have you found to be most helpful for partners in managing their own grief while supporting their partner’s physical and mental health needs?

Most helpful for us has been learning and acknowledging that men generally grieve differently than women. They are more ‘transactional’ in their grieving, as they want to do and fix. However, this does not mean that they are not grieving. There is no right way to grieve.

Couples often struggle with open communication after early pregnancy loss and during infertility. We work closely with counsellors on strategies couples can use to keep talking and to ensure they feel heard by one another. Our Partner Brochure helps to explain to the partner of the woman who has lost the pregnancy what she may experience and what support she needs. This is one of our most downloaded resources. 

What are your hopes for the Pink Elephants Support Network and its potential impact in the larger community? 

We truly hope to achieve our mission that no couple faces the journey of early pregnancy loss alone. We always say that miscarriage is an individual journey but one that should not be walked alone. The wider we can reach, the more we can validate the impact of miscarriage, the more couples we can offer the support and empathy they deserve.