May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, and here at The Mayfair GP that’s a topic that is close to our hearts. Untreated perinatal mental illness is one of the leading causes of maternal death during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth, so it is vitally important that healthcare workers are on the lookout for any warning signs.
Becoming a mother, especially for the first time, can be a daunting prospect, and the actuality is life changing. It is entirely normal to feel overwhelmed at times, both during pregnancy and in the weeks and months after birth. Particularly when you factor in the hormonal surges your body is experiencing.
However research suggests that, for one in ten mothers, this feeling isn’t limited to a few weepy moments. It can become a constant, ongoing depression.
Symptoms of perinatal depression include:
- Feeling low or anxious
- Struggling to sleep, even when your baby is asleep
- Feeling like you can’t look after the baby
- Feeling like life is not worth living
- Difficulty in enjoying the good times
There is a condition rarer than postnatal depression – called postpartum psychosis . It affects around one in every 1000 women who give birth in the UK. Postpartum psychosis is a severe medical illness that constitutes a psychiatric emergency. If you think you, or someone you know, may be suffering from postpartum psychosis, you should seek help immediately.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include:
- Mania – very high mood and energy
Whilst postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness that requires immediate medical attention, it should be noted that most women make a full recovery.
Dads can struggle too
Although perinatal mental health problems for mothers are a huge concern, it’s not just women who can find the adjustment to parenthood difficult.
According to Mark Williams, founder of Fathers Reaching Out – a campaign dedicated to paternal mental health – at least one in ten fathers suffer from postnatal depression. And he estimates the actual figure to be higher, as men tend to hide their feelings.
Williams stresses the importance of considering paternal mental health too. Parenthood can have far reaching effects for the father’s wellbeing. The rate of suicide among men increases between the ages of 30 and 44, and this increases when they enter into fatherhood. And a father’s mental health can affect the wellbeing of the mother and baby:
- A father who is depressed or anxious is less likely to bond with the baby
- Men have a stronger tendency than women to use negative coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs, and can become violent as a result
- Fathers are the main source of support for mother and child during the postnatal period
What to do if you or someone you know is struggling
Here at The Mayfair GP, we are committed to supporting perinatal mental health. We offer a range of services for parents, including the family health clinic, health screenings and a comprehensive paediatric care service.
If you have concerns about yourself or a member of your family, please give us a call on 07568 369 455 to make a booking.