Three things you can do if your mental health is suffering as a parent

Most people feel comfortable talking about health topics like nutrition and physical activity. They’re part of our everyday conversations. Since talking about physical health is such a normal part of our conversations, we’re also usually comfortable talking about times we’re just not our best or are struggling in these areas. We do lots of things to make sure we and those we love are physically healthy.

Jade Elliott spoke with Brook Dorff, MA, CHES Maternal Mental Health Specialist at Utah Department of Health, about what you can do to improve your mental health on this episode of the Baby Your Baby Podcast.

We support those around us in their efforts to make time to focus on their health every day. We encourage those we love to get help if they need extra support or can’t seem to be their best on their own. We cheer people on when they get help from a nutritionist, hire a personal trainer, find a workout buddy, or join a support group, so they can get healthier and feel better. However, mental health isn’t part of our normal, everyday conversations like physical health is.

Why is that?

We know our mental health is every bit as important to our overall health and well-being as our physical health. Throughout the pandemic, mental health issues have been all over the news and social media. However, many people still have a hard time talking about mental health issues because there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health conditions or mental illness. We often wait until something is really bad to talk about our mental health, instead of talking about it at the first sign we’re struggling. Talking about mental health like we do physical health, as just another part of our overall health and well-being, can make it easier to talk about.

How many Utah parents are affected by mental health conditions?

Data from the 2020 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey (PRAMS) show almost half of Utah parents with new babies experienced mental health conditions (like depression or anxiety) before, during, or after pregnancy. Utah PRAMS data also show the number of people who experienced anxiety and depression before and during pregnancy increased in 2020.

When people think about maternal mental health, or mental health conditions that affect women during pregnancy or after they’ve had their baby (postpartum), the first thing that comes to mind is usually postpartum depression. However, it’s important for parents to know they can experience other mental illnesses during the entire perinatal period, which is from the time you get pregnant up until a year after you give birth. Some examples of other mental health conditions parents can experience during the perinatal period are: depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and psychosis.

What can you do if your mental health is suffering?

1. Know the signs.

We are have been living in a pandemic for almost two full years. Add on the fatigue and seasonal blues that often set in during the winter months, and many parents are left wondering if what they are experiencing is just “normal” burnout, or a mental illness. If you are wondering if you should seek help…you probably should. Knowing the signs of mental illness can help you decide if you should seek help or not. Signs of mental health issues include, but are not limited to:

  •  Sleeping too much or too little
  •   Eating too much or too little
  •  Not enjoying the things you used to enjoy
  •   Body pains
  •   Anger
  •  Brain fog
  • Heart palpitations
  •  Avoiding loved ones
  •   Feeling overwhelmed, even with simple tasks

2. Know what works.

Several strategies and treatments have been shown to improve mental illness during pregnancy and postpartum. Some of these include:

  • Therapy
  •   Medication
  • Support groups
  •   Getting enough sleep (at least four hours in a row)
  •   Getting 10 minutes of movement (like a walk)
  •   Proper nutrition
  •   Drinking enough water
  • Taking a prenatal vitamins during pregnancy and for an entire year after you give birth

Talk to your doctor or medical professional about what would work best for you. It’s often a combination of strategies and treatments. For more information on what’s known to help, visit our website at:

3. Know where to get help.

Utah parents can find professional help at:

This is a searchable directory that includes many types of providers throughout the state. Results can be narrowed down by insurance type, location, specialty, and whether or not providers can accommodate virtual visits.

Additional education, information, links, and daily reminders that parents are doing better than they know can be found on our social media channels.

What is the most important thing for parents to remember if they are suffering with mental illness?

Experiencing mental illness during pregnancy and postpartum can feel overwhelming. We want parents to remember to reach out. You don’t need to suffer alone.

Our Instagram page is filled with information to help you recognize the signs of mental illness during the perinatal period.



For a full list of posts covering signs and symptoms, visit our guide called “Signs and Symptoms” here: and-symptoms/17894703130727018/.

You can also take a quick 10-question screening tool that may be helpful called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).

You can find professional help for maternal mental health in Utah by visiting:

The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.