Perinatal Mental Illnesses
Perinatal mental health refers to a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and the first year after birth. This includes mental illness existing before pregnancy, as well as illnesses that develop for the first time, or are greatly exacerbated in the perinatal period.
Perinatal mental illnesses include illnesses that can occur during pregnancy and the first year following birth:
- Bipolar disorder
- Postpartum Psychosis
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Pregnancy and birth can be a time of joy and delight. It can also be a time when women may worry, feel anxious, suffer with low mood and possibly depression.
When events happen and life changes, people can become stressed, even when they are positive and joyful events such as celebrating a marriage or moving to a new house. Becoming pregnant and having a baby is no different. Pregnancy and child birth is perceived by most as a happy time. However, there are many changes that take place that can exert extra pressure on a woman, and may impact her mental health. Physically, her body changes, hormonal changes take place, routine and life as she knows it changes, sleep is often interrupted, relationships can change, and expectations on self can be high and lead to feelings of failure. All of this can make it harder to cope.
You may find the guides. below helpful. Please click on the covers to read the self-help guides.
Guidance for Families
If you are worried that your partner or relative is struggling with pre or post-natal depression, it is important to recognise that she is poorly and requires your support.
Try to talk to her about how she is feeling, without making any judgements and dismissing her feelings, “you’re being silly…..you’re just being daft…no need to feel like that.” This will make things worse.
Listen and demonstrate you understand by acknowledging how she is feeling is very important. It may give her some relief as she has been able to express how she feels, You could show you have listened by saying, “So, you’re feeling low right now. You’re not sleeping and it all feels too much…” Encourage her to seek some help. You could offer to accompany her to see the GP or to call the midwife or health visitor.
Words of encouragement and affirmation will be helpful, as quite often when a person has low mood and depression, their thoughts are self-critical and judgemental. For example, “I’m a failure….I can’t cope…..I’m a useless mother.” Helping to reassure her that she will feel better in time and highlighting the things she does well will help to build her confidence.
Normalise situations when possible, If she says “I’m so tired. I don’t have the energy to do the things I used to…,” your response could be, “This is so understandable, You haven’t had a full nights sleep in weeks, I’m amazed you are managing as well as you are.”
Sometimes depression can cause a loss of perspective. Therefore helping her to see the reality of the situation can bring clarity, She might say, “Everyone is coping. It’s just me, I’m a rubbish mum…” Your response could be, “I’m sure every new mum finds it hard to adapt to all the extra demands a new baby brings. They are just putting a brave face on or having a good day.”
She may be feeling irritable and being snappy. Don’t take it personally. If possible, suggest she takes a break, offer some practical help so she can take some time to relax.
Please click on the guide below if you are a Dad needing support
You may find the guides below helpful. Please click on them to download a copy.
Resources for pregnant women
With the help of MMHA members, Tommy’s, a charity funding research and providing information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature and stillbirth, has developed a comprehensive digital resource for pregnant women around mental wellbeing in pregnancy. The link to the hub is www.tommys.org/mentalhealth
Tommy’s, together with a coalition of partners, have also developed the Wellbeing Plan, to help women think about their mental wellbeing, along with physical health, during pregnancy. The Wellbeing Plan is available here: www.tommys.org/file/Wellbeingplan.pdf
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