Maternal Mental Health Awareness
Did you know that more than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby?
Caring for a newborn can be very demanding, emotionally, physically and even psychologically. Some mothers adapt comfortably to this new lifestyle whilst others may require some support and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We can read all the parenting books in the world, but Motherhood is a journey of uncertainty because nothing can prepare you for the reality of it all.
Becoming a mother is a journey, with that said (like with everything in life) there will be highs and there will be some lows, but it is nice to focus on the highs more than the lows otherwise it will always have you feeling down. Nobody is born with the know how and nobody in this world can predict the future, so rather than stressing about what could go wrong, just take each day as it comes and try to make the most of it.
It is inevitable that during pregnancy a woman will naturally experience many significant changes; many women may experience some common mild changes to their mood, this is completely natural. Common mental health problems for women range from depression and anxiety disorders, whilst more severe mental health conditions such as postpartum psychosis, schizophrenia and even bipolar disorder if left untreated can be detrimental to the mother and possibly those around her.
I would like to explain that suffering with a mental illness does not mean that you are not normal, many people suffer with mental health issues or have suffered with them in the past and they are able to get on with their lives and carry out their normal daily duties. Suffering with a mental illness just means that you need a little bit of extra help and that is completely fine. We all need some support sometimes; no man is an island. So, please do not feel bad about this, what is important is that you are getting the support that you require.
During pregnancy, infancy and childhood the mothers mental and physical health are very important factors. Bonding and caring for a baby at this stage is fundamental, but what happens when you are struggling to do the above?
Prior to entering the wonderful world of Motherhood, I did not realise how many mothers suffered with different mental illnesses and it opened my eyes. Sometimes we look at people and assume that they have got it all together and they appear to be happy, but not all is what it seems, sometimes those ones who appear to be happy on the outside are suffering on the inside. It has made me check up on those around me more especially those I interact with in the Motherhood community, just asking how they are and if everything is okay, because sometimes you never know what is going on behind closed doors.
Maternal mental health is so important because suicide is the primary cause of death for women during pregnancy and one year after birth – that is so sad and disturbing, just because bringing a life into the world can have you feeling all sorts of emotions. Pregnancy itself is like a rollercoaster! I feel that more women should be supported during their pregnancy especially those who have nobody to turn to. Even once the baby is born it would be lovely for health visitors and other professionals to ask the mother how she is – I know a lot of healthcare professionals do this naturally and that is amazing, but please if you need to talk to someone, don’t hold back, let it all out and express what you are feeling, please do not suffer alone.
So, what are the signs to look out for?
Signs of Postnatal Depression:
A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood.
Loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things you used to enjoy.
Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time.
Trouble sleeping at night.
Feeling you’re unable to look after your baby.
Problems concentrating and making decisions.
Loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating).
Feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you “can’t be bothered”)
Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame.
Difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in their company.
Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby; these can be scary, but they’re rarely acted upon.
Thinking about suicide and self-harm.
Source: NHS Choices; MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AND PREGNANCY.
Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis:
Delusions – thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true.
A manic mood – talking and thinking too much or too quickly, feeling “high” or “on top of the world.”
A low mood – showing signs of depression, being withdrawn or tearful, lackng energy, having loss of appetite, anxiety or trouble sleeping.
Loss of inhibitions.
Feeling suspicious or fearful.
Feeling very confused.
Behaving in a way that’s out of character.
Source: NHS Choices; POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS.
Who can you talk to?
Loved ones, family and friends.
Healthcare professionals; doctor, midwife, health visitor. You can call 111 if you reside in the UK.
**If you or someone you know may be in danger, go to A&E or contact emergency services straightaway. Please do not ignore it, take action.
What can you do?
Go for walks, enjoy the fresh air and try to clear your thoughts.
Take up a new hobby, so that it gets you meeting new people and interacting with others.
Talk to someone.
Get rid of expectations and do what you can, when you can.
Take small steps, however big they are it is still progress, so well done to you!
Join a mother and baby group.
Be honest with yourself and to those around you.
Do not suffer in silence.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help if you require it.
You do not have to have it all together all of the time, sometimes be yourself and be free.
If you feel like crying let it out, wipe your tears and have a nice cup of tea.
All the positive things you have done that day with your child.
Do not obsess over trivial things/mistakes, it’s okay we all make them, we are learning every day.
Save some time for yourself to recharge.
Guilt is a wasted emotion I have heard, try to think about the here and now rather than the past.
What you do now counts more than anything.
You are human, and you are entitled to have good and bad days.
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