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mom self sacrificer

Moms are professional self sacrificers! When something’s gotta give – it’s typically us.

Author: Sheri Petruso MSW, LCSW

Somehow, the standard of a good mom became self-sacrifice and “do it” with a smile. Taking time for oneself was just wrong, unacceptable, and, dare I say, selfish.

Formal maternal mental health generally refers to a woman’s health and well-being before, during, and after pregnancy, emphasizing the perinatal time frame, which is the two years from conception to the baby’s first birthday, as defined by the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance.  It encompasses aspects of physical, mental/emotional, social, and spiritual health. The number one complication of childbearing is postpartum depression.


Postpartum Experience for Mom

Many cases of postpartum depression begin during this early time frame but can also develop during pregnancy and up to one year or longer after giving birth. (Postpartum Support International)

Often, women don’t connect their depression or anxiety symptoms as an outcome of their postpartum adjustment when the onset is a year or longer post-delivery. Women often feel like, “It’s just me – other moms seem to be doing ok,” or “I’m ok, I’m just tired.” We rationalize or avoid and discount any symptoms or struggles.  

When we don’t acknowledge the reality of our symptoms and feelings, especially if they are becoming more frequent, we might miss out on the help and support we need. This can lead to a decline in our physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health.


Mom’s Mental Health

According to, 1 in 5 women will suffer from a maternal mental health disorder like postpartum depression, with 50% of these women living in poverty. However, less than 25% of women receive treatment. Failing to seek treatment could negatively affect your life and the lives of your child(ren), spouse, and significant relationships. “Unrecognized and untreated depression among parents is a potent risk factor for children,” says William R. Beardslee, M.D., chairman emeritus of the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Boston. One example is that depression can interfere with a mother’s ability to bond with her children properly.

So, how do you know if you may be struggling? Here are some self-assessment questions from Postpartum Support International to consider:

  • Are you feeling sad or depressed?
  • Do you feel more irritable or angry with those around you?
  • Are you having difficulty bonding with your baby?
  • Do you feel anxious or panicky?
  • Are you having problems with eating or sleeping?
  • Are you having upsetting thoughts that you can’t get out of your mind?
  • Do you feel as if you are “out of control” or “going crazy”?
  • Do you feel like you never should have become a parent?
  • Are you worried that you might hurt your baby or yourself?


Once a Mom, Always a Mom

Mental health is something we all have, kind of like self-esteem and stress; it can be good, bad, high, or low. It is related to the role of being a mother and how our mental health may be impacted as a result of the responsibilities and changes associated with that.

Do you feel “once a mom, always a mom”? The goals, interests, fun, etc., you had before motherhood – do you feel there’s no time, space, or energy for them? Are they from a time when your life was in another world? If this is you, here are some suggestions:

  • Take some time to journal, brainstorm, and reflect on two words that describe you before becoming a mother. 
  • Talk about it with a friend, spouse, etc, to find ways to blend the two worlds.
  • Are there ways those two words still describe you? They may look a little different.
  • Take separate time within each “world” so you don’t feel like you have given up a part of yourself. For example, have a Girls’ Night one weekend and take a family trip to the park on another.


Reach Out for Help

Reach out for help if you find yourself experiencing some concerning thoughts or behaviors. How do you answer the assessment questions above?  

Birthright St. Charles has professional counselors who can help you navigate the postpartum world and maintain your maternal mental health. 

You’re a mom. You matter. The stronger you are, the better “they” can be, but it has to start with you.

Give us a call – we get it – we’re moms too. CALL: 636.724.1200

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