Maternal mental health problems are the most common childbirth complications, impacting up to 1 in 5 women.
In our society, motherhood and sacrifice go hand in hand. Mothers often put their health and wellbeing at the end of the list and do not take care of themselves. They juggle the roles of a caregiver, partner, homemaker, employee, family member and numerous others.
Not only do they juggle these roles, but they expect perfection from themselves, which proves to be highly taxing on their physical and mental health. Moreover, when you add a new baby into the mix, the hormones, new emotions and sleepless nights can become overwhelming.
Maternal depression and anxiety are the most common childbirth complications, impacting up to 1 in 5 women. Due to unrealistic expectations, many mothers suffer from mental health problems. Most of them do not seek treatment and often hide their problems.
A child’s healthy development depends significantly on the mother. She serves as her children’s first source of support in becoming independent and leading healthy and prosperous lives.
It is not a luxury anymore to turn to coping tools to maintain your mental health. Taking me-time, engaging in hobbies, exercising, meditation, and therapy are essential if your mental health is in danger. Mothers need to remember that they should not be too hard on themselves and should sometimes let things go while prioritising self-care and mental health.
Five Common Maternal Mental Health Problems
According to TheBlueDotProject, these are the five most common maternal mental health issues:
Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression (PPD)
PPD is a mood disorder that can develop during pregnancy or the first three weeks after giving birth. Symptoms can include
- mild sadness,
- trouble concentrating,
- difficulty finding joy in once-loved activities, or
- severe depression.
Mothers with pre-existing depression before or during pregnancy are more likely to experience postpartum depression. Proper mental healthcare can treat PPD and prevent the risk of severe depression.
Dysthymia, Persistent Depressive Disorder
Dysthymia is a low mood occurring for at least two years, along with at least two other symptoms of depression. People with dysthymia may
- feel hopeless,
- lose interest in normal daily activities, or
- have general feelings of inadequacy.
Women with pre-existing dysthymia symptoms may be at a higher risk for severe symptoms or depression during the perinatal period.
Pregnancy and Postpartum General Anxiety
It is normal to worry a bit more before or after giving birth, but if these worries consume your thoughts, you might be suffering from pregnancy or postpartum general anxiety. Anxiety is treatable during pregnancy and postpartum.
Symptoms often include
- inability to sleep,
- racing heartbeat,
- extreme worry.
Pregnancy and Postpartum OCD
Maternal Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) affects three to five per cent of women. About 50 per cent of women with postpartum OCD have intrusive or unwanted thoughts about their babies.
For some women, the birth experience is traumatic. They may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to giving birth. Women with PTSD often experience memories and flashbacks of the event. It can even impact how they celebrate a child’s birthday.
When to Seek Help
When left untreated, mental health problems can have devastating effects on mothers, babies, and families. Fortunately, the risk for depression and anxiety can be reduced (and sometimes even prevented), and mothers can recover with treatment.
Every pregnancy is unique, and the experience varies from one mother to another. Mothers expect pregnancy to be such a joyful time that they would be immune to mental health issues. However, mental health problems can develop at any time during the pregnancy and are not a reflection of the mother’s best intentions. Finding support is key to being your best self and the best mom you can be.
Seek help through a doctor or Mental Health Professional when your symptoms persist for two weeks or longer and interfere with your ability to function. Reach out to your doctor sooner if you have a history of mental health concerns.