Heyl Family PracticeMaternal mental health conditions are the most common complications of pregnancy and childbirth. They affect 1 in 5 women each year in the United States.These include depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorders.

You’re at increased risk of mental health conditions if you have:

  • a personal or family history of mental illness
  • lack social support, especially from their partner
  • You experienced a traumatic birth or previous trauma 
  • You have a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit

Mental health month is coming to an end, but focusing on how mental health affects pelvic floor health never ends at Resilient Motherhood. We know that depression and anxiety are common in motherhood and are often a driver for pelvic floor problems. Often when women go to Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy, they just receive exercises, but if worrying thoughts, body image, or negative thoughts play a role, you won't get relief from your symptoms. In order to get to a point of peace with your pelvic floor symptoms we have to address mental health and your stress response.

We always ask our clients about sleep, diet, movement, social support, and trauma, and help our clients find realistic, reasonable ways to improve in each of these categories to improve their overall health.


Sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. If you have a new baby or even an older child who does not sleep well, anxiety and depression can be more pronounced and it can be harder to heal from trauma. If you can, try to get into bed and be asleep by 10 pm. Between 11 and 1 is the peak time for release of human growth hormone, which can help to build muscle, recover from exercise and activity quicker.

Following the circadian rhythm of the body can be hugely beneficial too. Instead of reaching for coffee in that afternoon slump, try to rest. If you can nap, nap. If you can’t, even meditating, stepping outside at the office, or sitting on the couch can help to calm the nervous system, which can help you sleep better at night and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. 


You are what you eat. That is, 80% of what you eat. We believe in balance, not restriction. With all health issues, there seems to be a correlation with inflammatory foods. Systematic reviews show that the Mediterranean diet can help to significantly reduce symptoms. I know it can be extremely difficult to eat well as a busy mom, but making simple switches can make a big difference. 

Prioritizing breakfast before coffee, making sure you get enough protein, and swapping processed foods for quick homemade meals. 

Some of my go to’s for breakfast are:

Hard boiled eggs and toast. I prep the eggs for the week on sunday night and grab 2 or 3 with a slice of sprouted grain bread.

Whole fat yogurt with hemp seeds, coconut, walnuts, and honey.


A bean and veggie chopped salad that I prep in the beginning of the week. One of my fav’s is: https://theviewfromgreatisland.com/mediterranean-bean-salad-recipe/


Salmon with lemon, salt, and pepper. Super easy to pop in the oven and do a frozen veggie and rice or quinoa side. 

It’s also super important to determine if you have any food intolerances. I found that conventional cow diary was a trigger for me and now only eat goat or sheep’s milk products. We can help to sift through intolerances with you if you haven’t already. 


I do mixed nuts or a banana with peanut butter. Easy to eat on the go and in between clients for me! 


Many studies suggest that exercise should be the first line of treatment with anxiety and depression. It’s not fully understood why, but it’s proposed that exercise helps by increasing blood circulation to the brain and influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. These can improve the physiologic reactivity to stress.

I have seen first hand for myself and for my clients how exercise helps to improve response to stress. When I move my body, I find I am slower to anger, able to take deep breaths to cope, and also have less pain and pelvic floor symptoms. We also know that when you have pain or pelvic floor problems that affect how you participate in your life, you can have more anxiety or depression. So, it’s not just as simple as going for a walk or run, we have to right the ship when it comes to pain and pelvic floor problems. 

With many of our clients, we find that they are exercising too much or too little. When choosing exercise, make sure to include aerobic exercise (running, walking, swimming, biking, etc.) with strength training (lifting weights or bodyweight exercise), and meditative movement (yoga, tai chi, etc.) or stretching. If you constantly feel tight and anxious, be cautious with HIIT workouts. In small doses, they can be helpful, but if it’s your only source of exercise, it can ramp up your nervous system and make anxiety worse. 

Listening to your body and its messages can be your greatest tool. After exercise, you should feel energized or calm, not depleted, worn out, and stiff. You also should not feel increased pain, pee your pants, pressure through your belly or downward into your pelvic floor. If you feel any of these, it’s your sign that something needs to change. You may need to learn how to coordinate your core, strengthen your shoulders, gluts, or ankles, insert some somatic tools (read more on that below), or just change how much, how often, or when you exercise. 

I typically like to include recommendations in a blog post, but this is SO individualized that I will encourage you to make a free consult to learn how we can help. We get a full picture of your lifestyle including sleep, diet, social support, hormones/menstrual cycle, trauma, pain/pelvic floor problems, and more to help you curate a plan that will work for you. 


Good social support is a huge factor in physical and mental health. Good social support means people you can be vulnerable with, people that can step in and help with childcare or household duties, and people you can have fun with (with and without kids). These obviously do not have to be the same people. We know that if your family is not supportive, it can make navigating motherhood and mental health problems incredibly difficult. This makes making friends or leaning on ones you already have even more important. Making adult friends, especially with the constraints of motherhood is extra hard. That’s why we have meet ups for moms in Greensburg and Wexford. 

Greensburg- second to last wednesday in the afternoon, last wednesday at 7 pm.

Wexford - last Tuesday of every month for a meet up on mind-body health in motherhood 

If you want to get reminders for our groups, enter your email here- (insert newsletter sign up space)


Trauma can shape our motherhood experience in a myriad of ways. The lack of control, less time for self care, and changes in roles can throw you into a tailspin if you have PTSD from childhood, birth, or adulthood. We know that the most effective ways to manage and heal from trauma are EMDR, somatic work, and creativity. When you work with us, we help you tap into your creative side and find time and new ways to get into a flow state. This helps to create new neural pathways to help heal trauma. If you don’t have a go-to creative thing, we can help you find something that works for you. We also help to heal trauma through somatic work. Somatic work is movement and exercises that can improve awareness of your body, its sensations, and needs. Breathing is a great example of this, but if this isn’t a good tool for you (and it isn’t for many), we can help you find movements that you can insert into stressful or triggered moments to help calm the nervous system. We help you identify triggers in motherhood and then use different somatic movements to create space between you and the trigger and change the way your body reacts. 

One of our favorite somatic tools is butterfly tapping. The next time you have racing thoughts, are feeling guilty leaving your kids to go to work, or are angry with your husband or kids, instead of letting your pelvic floor take the hit or pain spiral, try this:

Place your right hand on the left side of your chest and your left hand on the right side of your chest. Alternate tapping the right and left hand. As you tap, tune into the sensations of your body

We also encourage moms to work with a therapist who does EMDR. EMDR is a great tool to help re-process the trauma, and the right mental health therapist can be a wonderful tool to heal trauma and move past anxiety and depression.2

If you want to learn how your mental health could be affecting your physical health, book a free consult to learn how we can help you devise a holistic plan to feel energized, calm, and in control in motherhood. 

  1. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;8(2):106. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a. PMID: 16862239; PMCID: PMC1470658.
  2. van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking.