DENVER, Colo. — If you have kids, you probably felt and still feel the extra stress of raising children through the pandemic.
Research now backs up those feelings and shows the pandemic created a big spike in mental health issues—especially in new moms.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are now 15 states that have extended postpartum benefits for moms up to one year after giving birth, and 10 states are working to extend those benefits now. However, until these benefits become nationwide, moms are getting creative to keep each other healthy and safe.
“We're not giving moms the chance to say what's truly in their heart and how they're feeling because we want everyone to be happy and love motherhood, but that's not realistic,” Nikki Brooker, founder and President of nonprofit You are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom.
Brooker’s nonprofit is busier than ever. She connects new moms with each other and with medical resources to fight postpartum depression and anxiety.
“Our community is held up by moms. We run the household. We make sure everyone's okay. And when our mental health is not well, that's when the kid’s mental health starts going, or the husband, or the community as a whole, and we need to do a better job of supporting where everyone begins, which is with mom,” said Brooker.
Brooker helped new mom Kristin Angelos when she had her daughter last year.
“I had a really hard time nursing her and I really struggled with that feeling like I was a sufficient mom for her,” said Angelos.
So, Brooker referred Angelos to an in-home doctor and mental health counselor. Angelos credits that support with calming her anxiety and keeping the postpartum blues away.
“It's scary. I was very aware, I can feel my anxiety coming on, you know. So, I was very aware that it was a possibility,” said Angelos of experiencing postpartum depression. “They gave us counseling, a couple counseling sessions as part of that. So, that was very helpful, I think, to prevent something from happening postpartum.”
Now, Brooker is ready to help Angelos again with her second baby.
“I'm actually extra nervous about this baby for postpartum just with some medical issues I'm having,” said Angelos. “I don't reach out for help a lot at all. I'm very bad at it. I've had a lot of tears, but it's nice to know that I'm not an inconvenience when I need someone to call or talk to.”
So many moms have no one to reach out to. Researchers at the University of Michigan found 1 in 3 new moms who had babies at the beginning of the pandemic experienced postpartum depression—a number researchers believe is triple pre-pandemic levels.
Researchers found awareness and more support is key in keeping moms safe.
That’s why Brooker is partnering with hospitals to give moms more medical check-ins after giving birth, and she is launching an app to connect moms who give birth around the same time.
“When you look around the room and you realize that you're not alone and these are your people. It changes mental health like that because you feel a part of something,” said Brooker.
Brooker knows her support is not a replacement for medical treatment, but she believes it’s a path to it so that moms, and communities, can be healthy.
If you would like to support You are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom, they are hosting a gala on Oct. 8 to benefit new programs to support moms after giving birth. Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets.