Dr. Bev Young: Trailblazing Women’s Mental Health Care

When I was pregnant with my second child, who is now 11 years old, I was a mess. Just an absolute mental mess. When you lose a child in pregnancy, your subsequent pregnancy is filled with anxiety. This time, I was waiting for something to go wrong. Every day that passed successfully felt like a little miracle. Every day leading up to 26 weeks, which was the point in pregnancy that I lost my first to stillbirth, was a nightmare. And I assure you, once I past that 26 week mark, it still wasn’t smooth sailing.

Mental Health Challenges with a Sprinkle of Nuttiness

I did everything differently the second time around. I did prenatal yoga during my first pregnancy, so I wasn’t doing it for the second. I took a road trip the first time around, so I was staying put this time. Soft cheese was a hard no. Tight knee-high boots were off the table (they could affect my circulation). I drank only glass-bottled water. No sweets. No extra salt. And, because I discovered, after my stillbirth, that I had Factor V Leiden (a blood clotting disorder) I was sure as hell never crossing my legs like women do (again, it might give me a blood clot in the leg and then…and then… and then… I would spiral way down the rabbit hole with my illogical thoughts that seemed very logical at the time). I didn’t plan a baby shower because the last time I sent out invitations, my baby died. I sort of created a bubble of safety with several precautions and superstitions – even though, logically, nothing I did would change the outcome. In my case, logic went right out the window and I was highly on guard.

I emailed my high-risk nurse at the slightest unusual cramp. Asked more questions than I should have (but hey, peace of mind, right?). Going to work was traumatic; it’s the place where I initially knew in my gut that something was wrong during my first pregnancy. If I went to work now, I was certain that the same demise would find me (even though it couldn’t possibly have been the case, it was true in my mind). Given my condition, my high-risk obstetrician wrote me off of work for the duration of my pregnancy – thank goodness.

The Things We Don’t Talk Enough About

It’s assumed that when one is pregnant, everything is sunshine and rainbows. A new life is coming, that mom glow is shining bright, and all those cute baby purchases fill up the new nursery. In many cases, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

There are so many challenges that women face leading up to pregnancy. Be it fertility issues, recurrent miscarriages, stillbirth, pre-existing health conditions, lifestyle factors, relationship strains, societal expectations… the list goes on. The mental toll that these factors take on women is astounding. And, our healthcare system doesn’t do a good job at providing mental health services to women facing these issues before or during pregnancy.

Enter Dr. Bev Young

Dr. Young is a Toronto-based psychiatrist with over 20 years’ experience focusing on women’s mental health. She developed and led two of the largest perinatal psychiatry programs in Ontario and has been using virtual care to treat patients across Ontario since 2014. She and I met during my second pregnancy. At the time (12 years ago) Dr. Young was only able to see women after they had already experienced a traumatic pregnancy loss – thanks to the rules of our healthcare system. If it wasn’t for her, I’m pretty sure that I would have lost all my marbles. Dr. Young got me. She knew how to talk me out of crazy, how to bring me up from down, and how to organize the mess that was living in my head. While 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in loss, losing a child feels very isolating. It is very isolating. People treat you differently during a subsequent pregnancy, you treat yourself differently during a subsequent pregnancy, and time can’t go fast enough to get you to that finish line.

The Future of Women’s Mental Health is Here: BRIA

Dr. Young was – is – brilliant, compassionate and committed to ensuring that women receive mental health supports through all life stages – not just after a life altering experience. That’s why, in 2021, Dr. Young, along with her colleagues Dr. Ariel Dalfen and Emily Kingdom, MBA, set out to create BRIA – a virtual women’s mental health clinic that supports women through each life stage and across the reproductive life cycle.

Through her years of clinical practice, Dr. Young saw an immense need to support women, not only after they experienced a loss, but through fertility treatments, fears, lifestyle changes – through it all. She is dedicated to improving access to high quality reproductive psychiatric care in Ontario and beyond. Dr. Young recognizes that the journey to motherhood is a profound experience marked by joy, anticipation and significant lifestyle changes, but it can also bring about unique mental health challenges.

I know first-hand that while pregnancy and childbirth are celebrated milestones, they can also be accompanied by anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. Recognizing the importance of prioritizing women’s mental health during this transformative period is Dr. Young’s passion. As she continues to advocate for comprehensive and inclusive perinatal support services, she affirms her commitment to nurturing the mental health of all women and families.

Her vision reflects a deep understanding of the unique challenges women face and a commitment to improving access to high-quality mental health care. Through her advocacy, care and dedication, Dr. Young is shaping a world where women's mental health is prioritized, understood and supported at every turn.

To learn more about Dr. Young and BRIA, visit BRIA.