Up until recently, researchers believed that motherhood was all bliss; the field of perinatal mental health was in its infancy, nonexistent even.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that interest grew and James Alexander Hamilton, MD, PhD, founded The International Marcé Society for Perinatal Mental Health. The group brought awareness to the mental health of mothers and the emotional changes that can occur throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
Today, it’s well-known that pregnancy and new motherhood often change our emotional experience. One in five to one new mothers experiences what researchers call a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD) — postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum OCD. Today, PMADs are even more common; being a mother in America right now means mothering in systems that were not built for or by us and often do not support our mental health.
PMADs can feel all-encompassing and isolating when you’re in them, but they are highly-treatable. Thanks to emerging research, new textbooks, and leaders advocating for change, awareness is growing, treatment is becoming more accessible, stigma is fading.
Thanks to the below organizations — changemakers leading initiatives, advocating for policy change, and supporting moms — maternal mental health is getting a seat at the table. Utilize their services, join their causes, or support their work to bring issues of maternal mental health front and center.
Postpartum Support International (PSI)
PSI is a leading support and training institution in the field of perinatal mental health. It’s played a role in the development of diagnostics tools such as The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and has members and volunteer coordinators all over the world and in all 50 states. PSI offers free virtual support groups, a help line, and a provider directory of professionals who are trained in perinatal mental health.
Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance (MMHLA)
A nonpartisan nonprofit, MMHLA advocates for the mental health of mothers and birthing people in the U.S. with a focus on changing and furthering national and state policy and health equity. In January, in partnership with March of Dimes, the group started a year-long project to study screening for mental health conditions during pregnancy and postpartum.
Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA)
This Black women-led alliance centers Black mothers and birthing people working to create change and shift culture around Black maternal health, rights, and justice. The group advances policy change (example: working to expand the network of Black midwives in Georgia), cultivates research on the topic of Black maternal health, and advances care for Black mothers, creating toolkits and founding and leading campaigns such as Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW), which had its fifth year this year.
Shades of Blue Project
By way of events (Black Maternal MH Week, Black MMH Summit, I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Walk), online support groups (everything from teen motherhood and infant loss to general mental health), postpartum care programs for moms in need, and more, Shades of Blue has a focus on improving the mental health of Black and brown birthing people. Soon, Shades of Blue will open a resource center in its home city of Houston set to offer social support, therapy, job placement, and more.
Since its inception in 2011, 2020 Mom has worked “aggressively” to close gaps in maternal mental health care, advancing policy and providing the public with practical solutions. In partnership with PSI, the group developed a maternal mental health certificate training to provide additional education for providers around perinatal mental health. Through a membership organization called Mom Congress, they enlists mothers to make the changes they want to see on Capitol Hill.
Cassie Shortsleeve is a freelance health and parenting writer, an integrative health coach, a mother, and founder of the new motherhood platform Dear Sunday. Follow along on instagram.