Maternal Mental Health Services are Within Reach

maternal health mental health working mom May 12, 2023

Are you considering Motherhood or feeling the weight of being a Mom?

I sat down (aka Zoomed) with my close friend from college who’s a mom of 2 and founder of Prospera Mental Health and Wellness, an organization dedicated to providing evidence-based mental health services and support specific to women’s mental health.

Zoila: So full disclosure, we’ve been best friends since our UCLA years. And well, you know, I admire your hustle! I’ve seen you grow, move, travel and even recall visiting you in Seattle when you were doing your fellowship or post doc, I believe.

Andrea: Oh yeah! I think we went to sushi that night!

Zoila: I’ve just been such a huge fan of yours and then was so excited to see you start serving women through Prospera – in such a meaningful way. Frankly, I believe in what you’re doing and was in awe when you decided to open your doors. I was like, “Go girl! Hell yeah!” It’s just such a natural calling given being a mom combined with your expertise in research and psychology.

Andrea: Yea, as a clinical psychologist, I’ve been studying treatments for anxiety, depression, basically for my whole career, and I have two children. And so through that process of having children I became more interested in maternal mental health, and curious about the lack of support for moms during pregnancy and postpartum. I wanted to make it easy, so I decided to remove all barriers to mental health access for moms so they can get the support they need.

Zoila: Oh, I love that. I mean with women making up 75-80% of the public health workforce, we are all navigating family planning. Or deciding to not family plan, right? I mean, we still have to make a choice about our reproductive health and whether or not we want children… So Andrea, what’s the biggest misconception of maternal mental health overall?

Andrea: I would say that I think a lot of people don’t realize that not all therapists are equipped to deal with pregnancy and postpartum. This requires expertise and understanding of what it means to be a mother in the context in which moms are operating. Also just holding space and respecting that this as a very unique phase of life matters. Motherhood has unique challenges and so I’ve talked to a lot of moms who saw therapists, but feel misunderstood. It’s common for women to just find any therapist and that person might not be able to really understand what you’re going through. So that’s what I wanted, was to fill that unique niche where all of our providers really understand motherhood and that they are working with tons of moms and data about their complex daily lives.

Zoila: Yeah, I can relate. I actually sought therapy myself when I got pregnant the first time. I have my bachelor’s degree in psychology too and am definitely adamant about seeking help when you need it, especially during vulnerable times such as pregnancy and motherhood. So, what’s the best advice you have for women who are family planning or uncertain what to expect for pregnancy?

Andrea: Great question! I think the biggest mistake that women make when they’re approaching this phase of life is trying to do it alone and not preparing to have support. There are many options to get support such as family and friends, Doulas, mom groups, group therapy and wellness coaches. So yes there’s all kinds of different help for moms, so just knowing in advance who you’re going to ask or who you’re going to rely on is important. Get going and get started so that you have the support all throughout pregnancy, in the labor and delivery, and postpartum.

Zoila: Yeah I love that and I think what I noticed when I was reviewing your services and offerings tailored for women’s mental health, that it didn’t even dawn on me that women could need access to mental health services going through a lot of miscarriages or if you’re afraid of giving birth! I mean I’ve shared this with some of my followers, but my first born was a very difficult and traumatic delivery experience, so for my second child I chose elective cesarian and definitely found a doula. I struggled to even consider having a second child, but maybe if I had known I could talk to someone about my fears in conjunction with my partner’s support – I would have felt less anxiety early on in my second pregnancy.

Andrea: That was an option yeah and I think this is another misconception - that a lot of people assume the only problem that can arise is postpartum depression. There are so many other challenges that women have - from fertility challenges, difficult pregnancy, and traumatic birth - all very common and our therapists see these a lot. And then anxiety is more common than postpartum depression or a lot of that intrusive thoughts causing stress. Rage is another thing that we were seeing a lot of, which is a really hard thing for people to talk about.

Zoila: Yeah this is one of the main reasons I really wanted to share your resources is because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen! I mean honestly. I’m so excited to see the impact that you’re making. Can mothers simply go to any mental health therapist or what is it that they should be asking for in experience? 

Andrea: I think talking with somebody who has some of that perinatal expertise and has worked with mom is worth seeking. It is really important to find evidence-based treatments so you talk to somebody that is doing something known to be effective. Cognitive based therapy (CBT) it’s basically very action oriented with actionable coping strategies. You should be coming away from your therapy with a feeling like OK I have some thing I’m going to try to do something different. Practice something in my daily life. 

Zoila: Ok like homework.

Andrea: Yea trying things and then they should be talking about what you did in the next session. What did you do? How did it go? Let’s troubleshoot so you should have that those really actionable skills not just surf. Talk to someone and that’s all good which is OK but there’s a lot more you can do in between sessions.

Zoila: This is all music to ears of public health professionals – we are all about sharing evidence-based practices! So why did you get into maternal mental health?

Andrea: My story is similar to what you were sharing earlier, which is that I have two children and with my first child I also had an a traumatic birth, very difficult birth experience. As I was thinking about having another child, it was the same kind of thing you were describing. Feeling like I didn’t want to go through that again .I had a lot of emotion around even just thinking about trying to approach this a second time and yeah so I looked for a therapist and you would think that I should be able to do that easily because I know this industry. But I was doing what everybody else was doing. I searched Google.

Zoila: Wow.

 Andrea: Yup, I was on a waitlist. I paid $230 per session out-of-pocket. I experienced this problem of access firsthand and so I really wanted to create a solution for moms and cost effective. It removes all barriers. No wait list. Something available across the United States and Canada.

 Zoila: I’m hearing 2 working professionals feared childbirth and while you struggled to find mental health services, here I just assumed talking to a therapist wasn’t even an option. As if it’s something we're expected to go through on our own as moms. Clearly, we need to change this.

 Andrea: Women should know they have options.

 Zoila: How does someone access your services?

 Andrea: Visit , we’re available across the United States and Canada. We have remote online sessions and offer weekly sessions with perinatal coaches, and then they support our clients in learning, cognitive behavioral therapy coping skills for rage, depression, birth trauma, pregnancy, anxiety and more. We get you started with scheduling a phone consult and then we go from there. Very simple.

Andrea Niles, PhDis a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Prospera Mental Health and Wellness, a mental health platform that provides exceptional mental health care specifically for moms.  She is a UCLA alum and lives with her 2 beautiful boys and husband in the Bay Area. 

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