According to a Vanguard article on first time mothers can suffer mental disorders; “Postnatal depression is a depressive illness that affects 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby and also involves experiencing symptoms of depression such as low mood, loss of appetite, poor sleep, loss of libido, irritable, anxiety, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, psychotic symptoms and many more for a period of at least two weeks”.
Mental wellbeing during pregnancy
Preparing to have a baby come into your life can be an exciting time, but also a challenging one. It shouldn’t be surprising if you experience some emotional change during the antenatal and post-natal period.
The World Health Organization, WHO wrote that; “Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this is even higher, i.e. 15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after child birth. In severe cases mothers’ suffering might be so severe that they may even commit suicide. In addition, the affected mothers cannot function properly. As a result, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected as well. Maternal mental disorders are treatable. Effective interventions can be delivered even by well-trained non-specialist health providers”.WHO
It should be known that both women and men can experience mental health issues during the pregnancy (the ‘antenatal’ period), as well as after the birth (the ‘postnatal’ period).
For some people, pregnancy can lead to conditions such as:
It’s very critical to look after your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy as you do your physical health. If you are mentally healthy, you will be in the best state of mind to manage the challenges of pregnancy and life with a new baby.
Also, pregnancy itself can be stressful as you deal with the hormonal and physical changes, you may feel stressed about things such as antenatal tests, especially if you’ve had a bad experience before.
Anyone can have a mental health condition – it’s nothing to be ashamed about.
These factors can put you at greater risk of developing mental health issue during pregnancy:
- past problems with your mental health
- the feeling you don’t have/get enough support
- going through a hard time, such as in your relationship
- past or current abuse of any sort
- problems with drugs or alcohol.
Effects of maternal mental disorders after birth on the mother and the infant
After the birth, the mother with depression suffers a lot and may fail to adequately eat, bathe or care for herself in other ways. This may increase the risks of ill health.
The risk of suicide is also a consideration, and in psychotic illnesses, the risk of infanticide, though rare, must be taken into consideration.
Very young infants can be affected by and are highly sensitive to the environment and the quality of care, and are likely to be affected by mothers with mental disorders as well.
Prolonged or severe mental illness hampers the mother-infant attachment, breastfeeding and infant care. (Source: NHS)
Tips for managing your mental wellbeing during pregnancy
There are enough things you can do to help manage your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy:
- Don’t expect too much of yourself – be realistic about what you can do; rest when you need to.
- Try not to make major changes at this time, like moving house or changing jobs, unless you have to.
- Keep physically active (check with your doctor or midwife before you start an exercise program).
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Spend time with people who make you feel relaxed and good about yourself.
- Avoid using drugs or alcohol to deal with stress.
- Make connections with other expectant parents so you can support each other.
- Accept help if it’s offered to you; ask for help if you need it.
If you’re worried, talk to your midwife or GP and they can discuss your treatment options with you.