To help raise awareness of Maternal Mental Health Week I am going to list some of the more common mental illnesses that affect perinatal ladies.
Post Natal Depression
We have all herd of the baby blues, they tend to hit you 3-10 days after birth. New mums are often overrun with emotions are tearful and overwhelmed. But it’s not surprising. A huge life changing event has just occurred after a massive build up too. The last 9 months of exhausting pregnancy are over, but now there is this tiny life totally dependent on you. So, its no wonder that suddenly hits you a week or so after giving birth. However, post natal depression is more than the baby blues. It can come on suddenly or gradually and tends to happen by the time baby is 6 weeks old.
Post natal depression affects 10-15% of new mums and can be severe or maybe only slight or a mixture. We are all unique and all deal with things differently, including PND.
Some of the common signs and symptoms for PND are:
- Difficulty sleeping. No this isn’t just because you have a newborn or young baby. You may struggle to get to sleep, stay asleep, have vivid dreams etc none that are due to lack of opportunity to sleep.
- Reduced appetite. Again this isn’t just about not having the time to eat, its about not having the feeling of wanting to eat or hunger.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Feeling worthless and hopeless about the future.
- Feeling unable to cope, irritable and angry.
- Hostile or indifferent to your baby, partner or close family/friends.
It is also referred to as puerperal psychosis and effects around one in every 1,000 mums. When you think of how many new mums there are each year, or even a day, that is A LOT of mums!
The symptoms usually develop within a few weeks or so after having baby. However, the symptoms can be very scary and overwhelming for all involved, including the new mums family/partner.
Some of the common signs and symptoms are:
- Feeling or being restless. This can also be seen as being on edge, you can’t sit still, your pacing, your mind is racing.
- Unable to sleep, even when you have the opportunity to.
- Unable to concentrate, this can happen when we are sleep deprived yes, but even after sleep or when not feeling overly tired.
- Having delusions or hallucinations. This is a common side effect so please don’t be afraid to tell someone about it, I promise, you are not alone.
- Feeling confused and disorientated.
- Rapid mood shifts.
2 to 3 out of every 100 mums will experience perinatal OCD. Now, just like PND most of us have herd of OCD however, it is widely misconstrued. We see the likes of Monica in Friends (if your a 90s kid like me). The term is used so loosely, you hear people saying “oh the OCD on her, her house is so tidy and immaculate its like no one lives in it.” But OCD is simply not people liking a clean and tidy home! Its a lot more serious and complex than that.
OCD has two main components to it which are in the title; obsessiveness and conclusiveness. See, no cleaning mentioned !! Obsession is about having intrusive thoughts, ideas or urges that keep playing in your mind.
Compulsion is about repeating things. Things you feel compelled to keep repeating. Such as, locking the door and re locking it, turning the light switch off or even repeating a phrase or saying in your head that you feel will keep you or your baby from harm (or another loved one).
The compulsiveness is like a side effect of the obsession its like a bid to relive the intense anxiety causes by the obsessive thoughts. However, the side effect becomes a symptoms in itself as the relieve is short lived and is therefore a distressing side effect thus making up part of the illness itself.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of OCD are;
- Intrusive/invading thoughts about harming your baby, accidentally harming your baby.
- Fear of giving baby a serious disease and of making the wrong decisions about baby such as to vaccinate or not and other medical stuff.
- Excessively washing and cleaning of things such as babies bottles, clothes, toys.
- Avoiding changing nappies because your scared you might accidentally touch your baby inappropriately.
- Keeping your baby away from other people in case the hurt or contaminate them.
- Constantly checking on baby, waking them when they are asleep to check they are ok for example.
- Asking people around you for reassurance all the time that you baby is ok.
- Overthinking at night replaying the day over and over making sure you have done everything right.
The list doesn’t end there
Remember I have only listed 3 of the more common maternal mental illnesses here today. But hopefully, this will help you see why maternal mental health awareness is so important. Being a new mum is hard enough, imagine dealing with just some of the symptoms listed above too. If you are reading this and you have or do suffer, I want to salute you! You are a true superwoman! If you face or have faced all this on a day to day basis and are still here reading things like this then you are living proof to yourself and all those around you that you truly are stronger than the mind!
For support on how to cope with these and other maternal mental illnesses please see my support blog here:
Or see the maternal mental health awareness campaign page here:
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