I want to talk a little about mental health today, as we recognize maternal mental health this month. First, I’m not a mental health professional but I’m a maternal health advocate and critical incident professional so I have experience dealing with individuals in both areas.
What’s Maternal Mental Health?
According to The World Health Organization, 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’s At Risk?
Virtually all women can develop mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery, but poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based), emergency and conflict situations, natural disasters, and low social support generally increase risks for specific disorders.
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.
Where Can You Find Help?
We want every mom expecting and those who have delivered already to know you don’t have to suffer in silence. We have a link at the end that has alot of great resources if you’re in need of help. https://www.mhtf.org/topics/perinatal-mental-health/