Maternal mental health disorders

Mental health

Maternal mental health disorders

Moms of every culture, age, and income level, can develop perinatal mental health disorders, which are mental health conditions that occur during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Perinatal mental health disorders include depression, anxiety, and psychosis. These disorders can be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social stressors, such as the lack of support. Maternal anxiety and depression are the most common complications of childbirth, affecting about 1 in 5 women.

Types of maternal mental health disorders
Symptoms of maternal mental health disorders (MMH) can appear any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after childbirth. They can take any of these forms:

Baby blues: This happens to about 2 in 3 mothers after giving birth, and it is likely caused by a sudden shift in hormone levels after childbirth. Moms who experience baby blues may have mood swings, feel sad, and may start crying for no obvious reason.

These symptoms often resolve within a few days, which is why baby blues are not considered a disorder. However, if symptoms persist beyond two weeks, the mother may be suffering from postpartum depression and would need expert evaluation and treatment.

Depression during pregnancy and postpartum: Depression during pregnancy and depression after pregnancy, collectively known as perinatal depression, is the most common mental health complication of childbearing. About 15% of moms experience significant depression following childbirth, and the percentages are even higher for women who are also dealing with poverty.

Women who have perinatal depression may experience:

These factors can increase the risk of perinatal depression:

Anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum
About 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. They may experience anxiety alone or together with depression.

Here are the symptoms of prenatal and postpartum anxiety:

Some of the risk factors for perinatal anxiety and panic include:

Maternal obsessive-compulsive disorder
Studies estimate that as many as 3-5% of new moms and some new fathers experience perinatal obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The condition manifests as follows:

Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder
Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is experienced by up to 9% of women following childbirth. The condition is often caused by a real or perceived trauma in the past, such as:

The condition manifests as follows:

Bipolar mood disorders
Also called manic-depression, Bipolar is a mood disorder in which the individual’s mood swings between two phases: the lows (depression) and the highs (mania). The risk factors are family or personal history of bipolar mood disorder.

Features of bipolar include:

Postpartum psychosis
About 1 in a thousand women experience psychosis following childbirth. The illness usually starts suddenly, most often within the first 2 weeks postpartum.

The condition often manifests with these symptoms:

The most significant risk factors for postpartum psychosis are a personal or family history of bipolar disorder, or a previous psychotic episode. Of the women who experience postpartum psychosis, studies have suggested that there is approximately a 5% suicide rate and a 4% infanticide rate associated with the illness.

If you feel you may be suffering from one of these illnesses, know that it is not your fault, and you are not to blame. Inform your partner, try to find support groups of mothers who go through the same, and seek professional help before it affects your and your child’s health. With help, you can prevent a worsening of these symptoms and can recover.

Thank you note
This article about maternal mental health was made in collaboration and with the support of the Pranaiya & Arthur Magoffin Foundation — Better Well-Being for Parent & Baby.

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