Maternal mental health is not just the baby blues. It is all-encompassing and something every mother, partner, and friend should be aware of when they find out about pregnancy. There are a lot of changes happening and many issues surrounding this topic have been swept under the rugs in the past. However, it does not have to be that way.
Motherhood is not all daisies: that’s a fact. But when everyone is gushing about the new baby, mom is sometimes overlooked. Understanding maternal mental health is an important topic for everyone to be conscious of: mom and her extended network.
What is Maternal Mental Health?
According to the US Health Services and Resource Administration, 1 in 5 new mothers suffer from maternal mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorders cause disruption to life for both mother and family. Symptoms can appear any time up to one year after giving birth.
Who does it affect?
Maternal Mental health affects mothers and mothers to be of all races, ages, and socio-economic levels. According to Grisbrook & Letourneau (2004):
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has a prevalence of 4–17% in the postpartum period and, like better known postpartum depression (PPD), is linked to reduced quality maternal-child interactions, decreased maternal sense of life satisfaction and functioning, and negative impacts on child development.
There are risk factors that impact the likelihood of depression during and after pregnancy including:
- history of depression
- lack of social support
- domestic violence
- low income
- being single
- having an unintended pregnancy
- traumatic birth
- preterm birth
- NICU stays
- and breastfeeding problems
Signs You May Be Dealing with Maternal Mental Health Issues
If you are feeling sad, are up at night worried and unable to sleep, you may be dealing with maternal mental health issues. However, symptoms vary, so knowing some of the symptoms of maternal mental health issues is important.
Some of the signs you may be dealing with maternal mental health issues include:
- Withdrawing from family, friends or events you normally enjoy
- Not feeling connected to your baby
- Feeling worthless or hopeless
- Changes in sleeping patterns unrelated to when your baby wakes at night
- Feeling of anxiety
- Feeling especially sad
- Eating too less or too much
- Feeling worried
- Having a feeling of emptiness
- Feeling like a failure
- Being irritated for no reason
- Sudden mood changes
- Poor concentration
- Use of alcohol or drugs that are uncharacteristic
- Difficulty in remembering things
- Being extra fidgety
- Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
- Wanting to be alone
Even if you only have one of these issues, if you feel off, don’t brush it off. Get help. If someone has mentioned to you that your mood seems off, that too could be a symptom that you just aren’t seeing in yourself.
When to Seek Help for Maternal Mental Health
When you have postpartum checkups, your obstetrician will ask you some screening questions. It is important to be honest. No one is judging you, and being honest will only help you and your family in the long run. But, if you notice signs when you’re not at a visit, tell a family member, and then make a call to your doctor.
Make an appointment for help. There is no shame in asking for help. In addition, if you have a history of depression and current emotional problems, you should seek help.
You wouldn’t feel bad making an appointment if you suspect an illness or cancer, so there’s no shame in letting your doctor know you have symptoms that need attention.
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