May 26, 2022

A Closer Look At Maternal Mental Health

It is well known that there are many physiological disorders and complications associated with pregnancy, these can range from serious conditions like preeclampsia or relatively benign conditions like infections or neuropathy.

Although screening for physical health is already established during routine obstetric follow-up, the explicit monitoring of their mental health is noticeably less emphasized. As May hosts the annual Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to shed some light on this matter.

What is Maternal Mental Health?

Maternal Mental Health refers to a wide range of psychological and emotional issues a mother may encounter during the perinatal period (before, during and after pregnancy). Statistics in the UK have shown that around 1 in 5 women will experience a mental health issue during pregnancy and that 70% of patients will not speak up about their suffering.

 

Postpartum Depression 

The most common clinical mental health condition associated with pregnancy is postpartum depression, affecting approximately 10% of pregnancies. Though childbirth is an exciting event for the mother and her family, it is common to develop unpleasant symptoms a few days after delivery, like:

  • Low mood
  • Lethargy
  • Low energy
  • Poor concentration
  • Emotional lability
  • Changes in appetite

 

This is called ‘baby blues’ and should generally subside within two weeks of onset. However, if these symptoms persist with the addition of feelings of guilt, inability to enjoy their interests or suicidal ideation; then it raises concern for the development of postpartum major depressive disorder, and a diagnosis is made when at least five symptoms are present for over two weeks, and this should serve as the warning sign for seeking medical attention.

Women with preexisting mental illness like depression or anxiety disorders or bipolar disorder are more prone to developing postpartum depression, other risk factors include stressful life events during pregnancy, young age, being a single mother, a family history of postpartum depression or unplanned pregnancies.

The effects of maternal depression vary and can be detrimental to the wellbeing of both mother and child. Women experiencing postpartum depression tend to neglect themselves; leading to poor nutrition and hygiene, whilst also neglecting their infant’s needs like avoiding breastfeeding, improperly positioning them for sleep or being unlikely to seek medical help if the baby seems unwell. As a result, the mother-child bond is weakened and this has been shown to impair the child’s cognitive and psychological development. Difficulties in the care of the infant due to depression can also result in marital discord which would further impact the wellbeing of the child.

 

Other antenatal and postnatal psychiatric disorders 

Other clinically relevant psychiatric disorders associated with pregnancy include ‘postpartum psychosis’, which is a rare condition in which a mother might experience hallucinations or delusions alongside postpartum depression. This condition is mostly associated with preexisting psychiatric illness and can be especially devastating if left untreated as it may lead to suicide or infanticide.

It is also possible for patients to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following a complicated pregnancy or delivery such as developing eclampsia or having an emergency caesarian.

Other minor issues that mothers may struggle with could be anxieties regarding family planning, fear of childbirth/stillbirth or stress related to the socioeconomic burdens.

 

To conclude, mothers deserve to be at their optimal physical and mental health when experiencing this joyous milestone of their life. The first step to identifying a mental health issue related to pregnancy is talking about it, whether it is with your spouse, family, friends, people who share the same experiences or your healthcare provider.

 

Are you interested in speaking to a doctor, but can’t find the right one near you? That’s where we from Saleem Telemedicine / Caresocius can help you. Simply browse https://caresocius.org/en our doctors and choose who’s right for you!

 

 

This articles references:

  1. Berens, P. Overview of the postpartum period: Disorders and complications. UpToDate. Retrieved 13 May 2022, from.
  2. Meaney, M. (2018). Perinatal Maternal Depressive Symptoms as an Issue for Population Health. American Journal Of Psychiatry175(11), 1084-1093. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.17091031
  3. Perinatal mental health | Maternal Mental Health Alliance. Maternalmentalhealthalliance.org. (2022). Retrieved 13 May 2022, from https://maternalmentalhealthalliance.org/about/perinatal-mental-health/.
  4. Viguera, A. Postpartum unipolar major depression: Epidemiology, clinical features, assessment, and diagnosis. UpToDate. Retrieved 15 May 2022, from.

 

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