Every one in five new mothers develops a mental health disorder during the course of their pregnancy or within one year of childbirth, as per research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. According to the World Health Organization, around ten percent of pregnant women and 13 percent of new mothers globally suffer from mental health issues.
Navigating life as a new mother is difficult. Hormonal imbalances, sleepless nights, societal expectations, and overwhelming emotions can be downright exhausting. Poor interventions and care in terms of mental and physical health can worsen the situation, leading to adverse impacts not just on mothers but the newborn children and their families as well.
As we mark Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week in the first week of May this year, it is imperative to discuss the mental health burdens of new mothers. Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is a global initiative directed toward acknowledging and addressing the mental health concerns of new mothers and helping them find appropriate care and treatments. Unfortunately, most women are unaware of the various maternal mental health issues that affect them. This restricts their ability to find timely and appropriate help or even recognize the fact that they need help in the first place.
This Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, let us dive deeper into the disorders affecting new mothers.
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week: Mental Health Disorders Affecting Young Mothers
1. Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Having a newborn is a lot. New mothers have to go through a lot after giving birth to a child, which results in short periods of sadness termed ‘baby blues.’ But, such depressive feelings lasting longer than a few weeks are symptoms of postpartum depression.
PPD is a mood disorder that can begin anytime during pregnancy or in the three weeks following childbirth. While there is no single proven cause of PPD, multiple reasons, like genetic factors and hormonal shifts, have been identified by research.
Symptoms of PPD:
- mild to severe depressive symptoms,
- trouble sleeping,
- severe fatigue,
- having difficulty concentrating on things,
- being uninterested in indulging with your child or not being able to bond with them,
- severe anger, and
- thoughts of hurting someone or yourself.
2. Postpartum General Anxiety
Being anxious and hyper-vigilant for your baby is a normal tendency. Many new mothers ignore such things as noises in their heads. They learn to ignore their hyper-alert thoughts, which eventually stop cropping up.
However, for others, worrying starts to become a problem. It gets overwhelming to the point that it starts affecting their daily life. This is what is medically termed postpartum general anxiety. It is defined as the irrational fear of messing things up or doing something wrong. The worry literally consumes the mother’s existence, disrupting her regular life.
The symptoms of postpartum general anxiety include the following:
- sensing dangers without any apparent reason,
- excessive worrying,
- feeling like being on the edge constantly,
- feeling an overwhelming sense of burden and stress,
- having jitters or being agitated frequently,
- having nausea or dizziness,
- having hot or cold chills, and
- having changes in heart rate and breathing.
3. Birth-Related PTSD
As per research published by the National Library of Medicine, 45 percent of women admit to having traumatic childbirth experiences, while 4% develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. It is caused by difficult, painful, and complicated childbirth experiences.
The symptoms of birth-related PTSD include the following:
- having flashbacks or nightmares about painful memories or experiences during childbirth,
- avoiding anything that reminds one of their trauma,
- feeling hyper-alert or constantly jumpy or irritable,
- feeling sad or extremely low,
- finding it hard to find proper sleep,
- being emotionally unavailable or cut off, etc.
When To Seek Help?
Every mother’s mental health journey during and post-childbirth is different. However, the important thing is to remember that you don’t have to go through this ordeal alone, and there is help available for you.
People in their postpartum periods should actively seek help from therapists and professionals if they feel any of their emotions or adverse symptoms have been consistent for more than two weeks and have started intruding on their daily life. If you have difficulty finding the right help, use the Postpartum Support International directory, which lists various maternal healthcare providers in America and Canada.
Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week is a global initiative to highlight the struggles of new mothers and provide them with an open platform to seek help and support. Maternal health issues are much more common than most people recognize. This is why there is a need to spread awareness regarding them to help people find timely and appropriate help.
If you have been experiencing symptoms related to any maternal mental health issues, therapy is a potent way to deal with your issues. Access to therapy is now easier than ever with the advent of online therapy. To learn more about accessible and affordable online therapy platforms, click here.
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