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Maternal Mental Health Awareness

Maternal Mental Health

Having a baby is a huge life event and can be overwhelming, mixed with a range of other emotions both during pregnancy and after, which is why it’s not surprising that around one in five women will experience a mental health problem, according to Mind.

You’ve got a new addition to the family, a bundle of joy, but it’s important to remember there can be a large amount of stress you might face as a new parent. You might feel like you should be happy all the time or you should be living a ‘perfect’ family lifestyle, but realistically you just want to catch up on sleep, spend your day in your pyjamas and settle in properly to your new life.

If you are pregnant or have just given birth, you’re probably going through a range of emotions, and you should remember that (as cliché as it sounds) it’s ok not to be ok. Some women find it difficult to openly talk about their mental health, especially when they have just become a new parent, but it’s essential to open up to someone about what you are feeling and seek advice where needed.

Remember that you are not alone, according to the World Health Organisation, worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth will experience a mental health disorder.

What mental health problems can women face?

There are many different mental health problems that new mothers can face, including:

Postpartum PTSD

Women can experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth, and this can be caused by trauma during delivery or postpartum. Traumas could include:

  • Unplanned C-section
  • Prolapsed cord
  • Certain delivery methods
  • Baby in NICU
  • Lack of support during delivery
  • Previous trauma related to pregnancy or childbirth

Perinatal depression

Perinatal depression is defined as depression experienced during pregnancy or after childbirth. Common symptoms may include:

  • Feeling low or sad
  • Unable to cope
  • Feeling guilty, angry or irritable
  • Have low concentration levels
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Reduced appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hostile towards your partner or baby

Perinatal anxiety

Perinatal anxiety is anxiety that women can experience throughout pregnancy or during the year after childbirth. The symptoms of perinatal anxiety are similar to that of anxiety and can include:

  • Feeling nervous and tense
  • Having negative thoughts or overthinking
  • Sense of fear
  • Headaches and tense muscles
  • Hot flushes
  • Faster heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping

Perinatal OCD

Perinatal OCD is OCD experienced during or after pregnancy and includes two main parts: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions can include intrusive thoughts and urges that repeatedly appear in your mind. Meanwhile, compulsions are activities you feel you must do to relieve the obsessive thoughts you have.

Perinatal OCD will likely relate to your feeling of becoming a new parent and your baby. Obsessions might include thoughts about hurting your baby, accidentally harming your baby while you are pregnant or fearing vaccinations and medical treatment. Meanwhile, compulsions could include excessively washing clothes or toys, constantly checking on your baby or keeping them away from other people.

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare diagnosis and affects one in 1,000 births and can happen within a few weeks after giving birth. Symptoms can include having a rapid change in mood, from feeling excited and depressed to confused or disorientated. You might also feel restless, experience delusions or hallucinations, be unable to sleep or have a lack of concentration. This can be frightening, especially as a new parent so it’s important to seek help as soon as you can.

Seeking help

The first step to seeking help is to recognise that you need to speak to someone about your mental health and this can be a big hurdle. There are numerous support groups, organisations and charities which offer a range of advice to new parents and families, you will probably find that a lot of new mothers will feel exactly how you feel.

Mumsnet – online forums for parents

Family Lives – confidential advice for parents

Family Action – specialist support services for mental health problems

Talk to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns regarding your mental health during your pregnancy or within the year after you give birth.

Private Health Insurance

Did you know that with our Elite Private Health Insurance policy you could be covered for Private Maternity? You’ll also have access to our Health and Wellbeing services which offers telephone counselling, mini health checks and has a wide range of information and advice on medical issues. Get your free online quote today!

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