What Is Maternal Mental Health All About?
Becoming a mother is a big change, therefore mental health needs to be assessed. The main issues that present themselves are; depression and/or anxiety. This is associated with the pregnancy or even changes occurring after the child is born. If a pregnant mother starts falling into a state of depression, a new concern arises. The mother's mental state not only needs to be addressed for her own well-being, but now there is a child whom she is responsible for.
Up to one in five woman suffer from depression related to pregnancy. In Canada, the national depression prevalence is around 6%, whereas maternal depression is approximately 13% (even higher in certain provinces). This is something that's important to identify and treat.
Anxiety disorders are another mental health issue common in pregnant and postpartum woman, affecting up to 24%. Woman who already suffer from anxiety disorders may see their conditions worsen. New disorders may also appear for other woman, who have never suffered from mental health conditions before. These woman can suffer from any of the following; social anxiety disorder, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD and panic attacks. Woman who are experiencing anxiety issues, are also at risk for depression. This needs to be monitored closely, keeping the mother and babies well-being in mind.
Although much less common, some woman experience postpartum psychosis. These symptoms consist of; hallucinations, agitation, strange perceptions and even self-harm. If you believe you're experiencing postpartum psychosis (or you believe your loved one is suffering), seek help immediately.
Consequences of Maternal Mental Health
When looking at maternal mental health, you can see why there is such a concern. Many woman confuse their mental health issues with being inadequate mothers. Here are some of the main reasons that maternal mental health needs to be addressed as soon as symptoms occur:
1. Not only is mental health issues common in maternal woman, but their partners as well. When a woman falls into depression, her partner is more likely to experience symptoms. This is an obvious concern, considering there's a baby that needs tending to.
2. Due to maternal mental health issues, mothers may struggle to become attached to their child. If a mother can not bond with her child, this may increase her guilt and further her maternal depression.
3. Self-medicating with alcohol and drugs is common in woman suffering from depression of anxiety. If the woman is still pregnant, there are concerns for her unborn child. If the child has been born, there's risks associated with improper care.
4. The child's development becomes a risk factor. Mothers who suffer from maternal mental health issues are more prone to; give birth to lower weight babies, give birth pre-term and/or not breast feed effectively (not providing enough nutrients). This can affect a child's growth, cognitive abilities, social/attachment skills and psychological functioning. These children are then at risk for; autism, depression and attention deficit hyperactive disorder.
Promoting Maternal Mental Health
It is estimated that mental health costs Canada $14.4 billion each year. There are resources available and need to be considered for those who are suffering. Here are some of the ways to prevent and treat maternal mental health:
1. Education: There is nothing more important than education in terms of prevention. Public awareness can educate prospective mothers, as well as mothers who are currently experiencing mental health issues. If woman and their partners are educated on mental health, they will be able to address it more effectively.
2. Screening: The earlier that symptoms are identified, the better. It is great to catch mental health issues early, before symptoms worsen. This will not only reduce the impact on the mother, but the child as well. Woman who already suffer from mental health issues before pregnancy, need to be monitored closely.
3. Treatments: Once symptoms are seen, it's crucial to treat these woman. Pregnant and postpartum woman need to be prioritized, there are multiple lives at risk within these circumstances. Woman can access support (either individually or within group sessions), involving the woman's partner is always a great idea as well. Many woman who are suffering from maternal mental health issues will ask about medication options. This needs to be assessed with your doctor; there are risks and benefits during pregnancy and breast feeding. Speaking to your doctor or psychologist are your options in terms of medication.
As you can see, maternal mental health is a serious condition. If you, or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, it is time to go see a professional. Do not wait, seek help immediately. Remember, it is not only you that is the concern, there's a child to care for now. Take the proper steps to improve your own mental health, and focus on the life your child deserves.
1. Bowen, A. (2010). Maternal Mental Health Strategy: Building Capacity in Saskatchewan. Mother First. Retrieved on April 15, 2014, from http://www.feelingsinpregnancy.ca/MotherFirst.pdf