(Content warning: Depression, Anxiety, Bereavement)
The World Health Organization defines mental wellness as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community." Mental health is essential in our everyday lives, especially for pregnant individuals and parents through the first year after birth. Pregnancy and parenting can bring about stress with many new challenges, lessons, and changes. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and Postpartum Depression is common. According to the Postpartum Support International Fact Sheet, " without appropriate intervention, poor maternal mental health can have long term and adverse implications for mother, child, and family." You can get help with the proper support, including providers, tools, resources, and skills! This post will discuss mental health care providers on the Central Coast, what they do, how to find them, key findings, and when to seek help from professionals.
Let's discuss the most common types of mental health and wellness professionals in the perinatal and postpartum period.
Many types of providers in our county can help improve mental wellness. Still, the most common include Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists (LMFTs), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Psychologists, and those with a PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certification). These providers help give support and resources and foster mental wellness, but it is important to understand their specialties, backgrounds, and perspectives.
A licensed marriage family therapist (LMFT) is a mental health provider who works with individuals, families, and couples to diagnose and treat them through family system relationships.
A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is a mental health provider who views the environmental and social aspects when counseling, evaluating, treating, and managing various mental, social, or medical concerns. They often work with other providers in the client's life to assist clients in overcoming these obstacles.
Psychologists are mental health professionals with training to help people cope with mental health disorders and life challenges. They can test and assess, diagnose, and manage illnesses.
Those who have the PMH-C (Perinatal Mental Health Certification) are often mental health providers, prescribers, and complementary birth and wellness providers who get a special certification to work with families and individuals with perinatal mental disorders. They have more expertise and training to educate and evaluate clients struggling with this. Physical therapists, occupational therapists, lactation consultants, nurses, doulas, and other professionals who work with this population choose to get this specialty training. It can be helpful to look for a provider who has this certification when seeking treatment.
Another helpful resource is support groups. Support groups can differ between group therapy, peers, and those who have had similar experiences to you in the past.
Now that we've covered some important mental wellness providers let's see where we can find them!
In general, when seeking these mental wellness professionals, you can find them in private practice, educational institutions, health care organizations, hospitals, mental health facilities, non-profits, community-based organizations, medical clinics, and virtually.
If you are looking for someone from the Central Coast community, there are many places to find support:
SLO Hotline is always available for emotional support and help during a crisis.
Psychology Today is a popular place to search for therapists by specialty.
Additional resources include:
A CCCN blog post about Bereavement, Pregnancy, and Infant Loss
Take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and discuss your results with your healthcare provider.
Local Resources, including low-cost resources for postpartum, bereavement, and mental wellness support, are available on the CCCN website.
Support Groups and Mentoring for Partners
SLO Hotline is always available for emotional support and help during a crisis.
French Hospital for The Mommy Hour: Virtual Emotional Health Support During Pregnancy and Postpartum (Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
SLO County Postpartum Support Coordinator 805.994.0873 (text or call), email@example.com
Northern Santa Barbara County Resources can be found at PMAD Postpartum Educational Services Santa Barbara and the Northern and Mid-Santa Barbara County Maternal Mental Health Community Resources Directory.
Another resource is the public CCCN Member Directory. Many CCCN Members are LCSWs.
CCCN Podcast episodes Spiritual & Connective Wellness with Tawny Sterios
* Not an exhaustive list
These are only a few of the countless fantastic resources available to you in SLO and Northern Santa Barbara Counties; check out the links to learn more and seek support!
Let's look at some evidence around Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders and therapy!
It is normal to experience some negative feelings after pregnancy. In fact, "Approximately 70-80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings or mood swings after the birth of their child" (American Pregnancy Association). It is important to note that without appropriate interventions, "Baby Blues" can develop into postpartum depression.
"Both IPT (Interpersonal Therapy) and mother-infant group therapy were associated with a greater reduction in depressive symptoms" (Fitelsom, 2010).
"Statistically significant improvement in depression scores from pretreatment to post-treatment, suggesting that group treatment is effective in reducing PPD symptoms" (Goodman, J. H., & Santangelo, G., 2011).
"higher social support scores for pregnant women had a strong
inverse association with depressive symptoms" (Brown et al. (2012.
Helpful resource: PSI Fact Sheet
When might you need professional support? Are there any Barriers to accessing mental health resources?
It can be crucial to find professional help throughout pregnancy, the first years after having a child, and infant loss. Early screening and detection of symptoms of PMADs can aid in early treatment and improved outcomes. According to postpartum support international, "While many parents experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety." With the many upcoming changes, it is helpful for your provider to have a baseline of your mental health before pregnancy to monitor changes to your mental wellness. Here is a look at the most common perinatal mood disorders, risk factors, and symptoms.
Common Perinatal Mood Disorders include:
Pregnancy or Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Pregnancy or Postpartum Anxiety (PPA)
Pregnancy or Postpartum OCD (PPOCD)
Bipolar Mood Disorders
Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPTSD)
Risk factors for perinatal mood disorders can include, but are not limited to:
A traumatic birth
Previous anxiety or depression
Lack of partner support
Lack of resources
Additional information about symptoms can be found on PMAD SLO or visit the Postpartum Support International website. Practicing self-care, seeking therapy, and asking for help when needed are some ways to alleviate symptoms and improve wellness. Some barriers to accessing mental wellness providers include mental health stigmas, COVID-19, cost, insurance, work, provider availability, language, and transportation. However, there are many virtual support groups linked above. There are also postpartum support groups and resources for Spanish-speaking individuals at The Link Family Resource Center. Dignity Health has a Spanish Support Group for parents of children from 0 to 2 years old. Telehealth has opened up virtual therapy with LMFTs, LCSWs, and psychiatrists. Although there are stigmas around treatment, there is essential support if you or a loved one are struggling. Getting help can decrease additional stress when caring for your newborn or child. You are not alone. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and illnesses, it is not your fault. There is help for you, and you can get better!
Mental wellness should be prioritized, especially from preconception through early parenting, as it impacts almost every aspect of your life. We are so fortunate that our community has so many resources to support the perinatal period, partners, and support people. There are many accessible ways to find support in our community, and we want to help you! Reach out to CCCN at centralcoastchildbirthnetwork.com for more resources and support.
Authored in collaboration with:
Alana Krull, CCCN Intern
Zabrina Cox, CtP Program Director
Brown, J. D., Harris, S. K., Woods, E. R., Buman, M. P., & Cox, J. E. (2012). Longitudinal study of depressive symptoms and social support in adolescent mothers. Maternal and child health journal, 16(4), 894–901. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-011-0814-9
Fitelson, E., Kim, S., Baker, A. S., & Leight, K. (2010). Treatment of postpartum depression: clinical, psychological and pharmacological options. International journal of women's health, 3, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S6938
Goodman, J. H., & Santangelo, G. (2011). Group treatment for postpartum depression: a systematic review. Archives of women's mental health, 14(4), 277–293. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-011-0225-3
Disclaimer: The opinions or beliefs expressed by various authors on this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs, and viewpoints of Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC. Central Coast Childbirth Network, INC does not offer medical advice. The content on this blog is for informational purposes only. The author's opinions are based upon information they consider reliable; thus, Central Coast Childbirth Network warrants its completeness or accuracy and should not be relied upon as such.
CCCN Does not give medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan. If you are experiencing an emergency, please did 9-1-1.