Like many women (about 12 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control), Lilliana Vazquez, host of E! News and founder of the LV Guide, had a hard time getting pregnant. She says not being able to conceive left her with feelings of shame and guilt—another common side effect of infertility. “I didn’t tell my story until I was six months pregnant,” she says. “Especially in my community, where Latinos talk about everything, it felt confusing not being able to share what I was going through,” she says. “It felt really lonely and isolating keeping it to myself.”
Now the mother of a baby boy, Vazquez is working to raise awareness about maternal mental health and destigmatize common conditions associated with the path to parenthood, including infertility, miscarriages, pregnancy loss, and postpartum depression (PPD). “We need to process ALL the losses,” she says. “Whether it’s IVF or identity or your relationship, there’s so much that simply isn’t talked about. For example, when the transfer didn’t take place during IVF, that was a loss. No one acknowledges that these moments are painful.”
Another topic Vazquez says doesn’t get talked about enough is mood disorders during pregnancy. “In my first trimester, I would wake up every day and think, ‘Is today the last day I’m going to be pregnant? Is today going to be the day?’ I was crying all the time, and I was so depressed,” she says. “No one knew I was pregnant, so here I was going through something alone, again.” She began seeing Elizabeth Salick, a clinical psychologist specializing in adult psychotherapy and maternal mental health, who says, “Early identification of a mood disorder during pregnancy can significantly help mitigate postpartum depression. Treatment that begins earlier is more effective. Creating the necessary support systems, improving marital or familial relationships, and seeking psychotherapy (and medication if needed), are examples of ways mothers can help prepare themselves [for becoming parents].”
Dr. Salick’s suggestion to new moms coping with overwhelming feelings of sadness is to be sharply aware of who you are as an individual first, including how you typically handle life transitions. “It really helps to know yourself and to have done some work on your issues before becoming a parent,” she says. “Coming to terms with the unmet emotional needs from your own childhood is invaluable. Knowing the kinds of adjustments that have been hard for you in the past.” The best way to do this is by seeking out assistance from a trained mental health professional.
For Vazquez, setting goals during her therapy sessions, like wanting to find joy in her second trimester, and working together with Dr. Salick on ways to achieve that, was transformative. They also worked on her becoming comfortable in a body undergoing extreme changes.
“There were days when I was just like, ‘I look terrible. I cannot deal with this. I work in television and I’m not confident,’ Vazquez shares. “That’s the thing about mental health, though. Always staying ahead of where you are mentally is a game-changer. Therapy during pregnancy was a total game-changer for me. We’re sold a fantasy around pregnancy and marriage, and it’s just not real. Once we start to break that down, we create space for acceptance.”
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