brunette female patient in hospital gown laying in bed with baby on her chest with a blanket around baby and a nurses gloved hand on baby's back. another hand is near mom's head for support

Nurses take action by advocating for maternal mental health awareness

As the maternal mortality rate continues to rise, two UTMB Health nurses are setting out to combat this issue.

Vanessa Abacan, a clinical nurse specialist and Souby George, a nurse clinician have both seen the effects of maternal female clinician in white coat with stethoscopemental health not being recognized as a serious issue. Currently, the United States reports that one in five women experience postpartum depression, or perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, and that suicide is the third leading cause of maternal mortality.

Mothers can often experience this up until a year after giving birth, even though most postpartum checkups occur three weeks postpartum.

headshot image of female wearing navy blouse smiling in front of backdrop“This doesn't usually happen right after they have the baby,” George said. “What we are trying to do here is spread awareness to the community, because these women need to be watched and monitored, at least up to one year.”

Some symptoms for postpartum women to watch out for include:
  • feeling sad or depressed
  • feeling more irritable or angry at those around you
  • having difficulty bonding with your baby
  • feeling anxious or panicky
  • having problems with sleeping or eating
  • having upsetting thoughts
  • feeling out of control
  • worried you might hurt your baby or yourself
Despite misconceptions about what motherhood should look or feel like, these symptoms are very normal things to feel after giving birth. However, these symptoms do need to be addressed to get new moms back to feeling like themselves.

Abacan and George are both working to combat the stigma new mothers might feel about reaching out for help when they start to experience the symptoms of postpartum depression.

“One of the most overlooked conditions after childbirth is your mental health,” Abacan said. “As nurses, we are supposed to look at a patient and care for a patient holistically. We don’t want to just view symptoms of their physical health; we want to also be thinking about their mental health. That's part of providing holistic care for a patient.”

Abacan and George recommend resources such as:
  • text MOM UTMBGA to 321-517-4278
    • individuals texting this message to the number listed above will be directed to a mental health screening that will help inform patient support measures
  • call 911 for immediate help
  • call or text the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)
  • visit here to take a brief emotional screening
Both nurses also advocate for normalizing talking about mental health to help remove stigma around it. By talking to new moms about postpartum depression before they leave the hospital, this can make reaching out for help feel less scary.

“It's also a matter of normalizing mental health,” Abacan said. “Patients don't really openly discuss that because there are some cultures that still see that as stigmatized. Being Asian, we don't really openly talk about depression, anxiety, mood disorders and stuff like that. It's going to take a whole culture change to adjust that perspective on mental health.”

To learn more about postpartum depression and how to recognize the symptoms of it, visit the website or utilize the resources mentioned above.

The above story was produced by Community Impact's Senior Multi Platform Journalist Sierra Rozen with information solely provided by the local business as part of its "sponsored content" purchase through our advertising team.