The arrival of a baby is cause for celebration, yet 1 in 5 mothers are robbed of that joy by some form of mental health challenge, either during their pregnancy, or within 12 months of giving birth.
The many life challenges that occur around a pregnancy can leave mums-to-be more vulnerable to mental health issues. One thing we can all do is to let them know they are not alone.
Many mums hide what they’re going through
Commonly called ‘the baby blues’, pregnancy and giving birth can trigger confusing emotions, mood swings and difficulty sleeping. For one in five mums, symptoms are more severe, yet 7 out of 10 women affected will conceal or downplay their symptoms, due to lack of understanding, or shame, about what they are feeling.
While there is growing awareness about Postpartum Depression, illnesses such as Persistent Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, OCD and PTSD too often go undetected. Without treatment, long term complications can result for the mother, child, and family as a whole. An integrated approach to wellbeing can support them to thrive beyond the postpartum period.
Some warning signs that it’s time to ask for help
. Being tired is part of adjusting to a newborn. Feeling hopeless all the time is not.
. Difficulty making decisions, such as whether to change your baby’s diaper.
. Feeling numb and unable to enjoy your baby.
. Thoughts of harming your baby.
Maternal mental health issues should never be seen as weakness
Women from all cultural backgrounds are affected. Promptly seeking support can prevent disruption to a mother’s ability to care for, and bond with, her baby.
Postpartum Depression is associated with a drop in estrogen and progesterone hormones, and increased stressors on the mother. The severity of symptoms can be managed with proper treatment.
Persistent Depressive Disorder presents as a low mood for at least two years. With early detection and intervention, intensity and duration can be reduced.
Postpartum Anxiety, dwelling on the ‘what if’s’ of the baby’s wellbeing, can be alleviated with treatment plans that may include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication.
Maternal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, affects up to 5 percent of women. Almost half experience thoughts of harming their infant but respond well to Exposure and Response Prevention.
Birth-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can impact enjoyment of your child’s birthday, or decisions about having more children, and benefits from trauma-focused therapies.
Flourish Australia understand that mums dealing with mental health issues while caring for a child can require additional assistance. Our Women and Children’s Program comes alongside these families by providing supported accommodation and a place to heal, with access to free courses in parenting and other life skills needed to thrive in their community.
What can you do?
If you are connected with a new mum, ask her how she is really feeling and encourage her to reach out for help if she is feeling overwhelmed. Visit www.flourishaustralia.org.au for information about the support we can offer.
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