Blog by Shreya Bakshi, SAHM & Mom blogger @raising_shaan
National Safe Motherhood Day is celebrated on 11th April every year. Although statistics show that the Maternal Mortality Rate has gone down, several areas need immediate attention to ensure that a new mother has access to a safe motherhood experience. Along with nutrition and regular checkups, the area that needs an enormous amount of attention is maternal mental health.
What is Maternal Mental Health?
Every mother must have thought to themselves at one point in their lives: ‘ I wish someone had informed me about mental health.’
There is very little to no discussion about maternal mental health.The unfortunate part about pregnancy and society’s role in it is they are constantly training the pregnant mom to learn to care for the baby, but how much attention is paid to the mother’s mental health?
The mental health of a mother may be affected during pregnancy or after delivery. Although its common and fully treatable, moms continue to suffer as most of them are never informed of it.
What makes it worse is that mental health is taboo in India, making it more difficult to open up about the symptoms, thus delaying treatment.
A new mother requires to be told its okay to take care of their own needs. It is helpful if the mother is offered practical support with childcare when the newborns are fussy and recover from childbirth. To ensure a Safe Motherhood, the way the diet, checkups, etc., play a role; postnatal care is the final step that ensures safe motherhood. It helps them to balance the newborn stage while acknowledging and taking care of their own needs.
Some of the very common mental illnesses a woman goes through during pregnancy can be classified into –
Antenatal Depression, Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, and Postpartum Psychosis.
- ANTENATAL DEPRESSION
Antenatal Depression can reduce the joy of pregnancy and the journey towards childbirth. It is not talked about as much as Postpartum Depression, but it is also a real condition that needs an equal amount of attention. The causes could be a stressful pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, bad relationship with spouse, stress, lack of support, financial problem, previous history of depression, fetal complicacy, losing a loved one, etc.
– Loss of energy
– Disturbed sleep pattern
– Losing interest in the pregnancy
– Severe mood swings
– Uncontrollable crying
– Difficulty to concentrate
• POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
The postpartum phase poses a risk for new moms to develop mental health problems. Postpartum Depression can severely affect the bonding with the newborn.
After childbirth, it is very common for mothers to experience overwhelming emotions caused due to hormonal changes.
While ‘Baby Blues’ is a condition that affects several women right after childbirth, it usually passes away on its own after a few weeks. Postpartum Depression, on the other hand, presents itself with similar symptoms but in a more aggravated manner.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
– Severe mood swings
– Unable to bond with baby
– Withdrawal from family members and loved ones
– Loss of appetite
– Anxiety attack and panic attacks
– Unable to concentrate
-Trouble remembering things
– Feeling you are not a good mother
– Loss of energy and fatigue
– Thoughts of harming the baby
– Feeling Suicidal
• POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS
Postpartum Psychosis is a severe form of mental health disorder that needs immediate attention by a medical practitioner. It makes a person lose touch with reality, and the symptoms are severe.
Those who have a history of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or even if it runs in the family are at an increased risk of Postpartum Psychosis.
SYMPTOMS OF POSTPARTUM PSYCHOSIS
– Auditory Hallucinations – where the mother hears things that are not happening for real. They often feel that someone is suggesting to kill the baby or themselves
– Imagining that someone wants to hurt their baby
– Losing sense of time and place
– Erratic behaviour
– Extreme mood swings
– Violent behaviour
• POSTPARTUM ANXIETY
Most first-time mothers and new moms find themselves worrying about the baby. Sometimes, a lot more than what is expected to be healthy. The symptoms do not fit the definition of baby blues and depression but is another disguised form of mental illness known as Postpartum Anxiety. If you feel overly worried about the baby, where it interrupts daily life, you should see a doctor. If not treated, it can become dangerous.
– Constant worry that something will happen to the baby, for ex-baby will drown while bathing or die while sleeping.
– Lack of sleep
– Anxiety Attacks
– Racing thoughts
– Feeling afraid
It is also known as the ‘hidden disorder’ as it is hard to identify and often goes misdiagnosed.
Motherhood is not supposed to make you feel isolated. One shouldn’t feel guilty or attach shame to ask for help. Contrary to what most people believe, one cannot fix the mood by themselves. The treatment method is decided based upon the symptoms one exhibit; the sooner a person gets diagnosed, the easier it is to recover.
Treatment can be therapy along with medication. The medication may be antidepressants that help to manage the symptoms and elevate the mood. The medical practitioner may also prescribe medication to restore the hormonal balance.
Psychotherapy and medication helps to manage and interpret the situation better and channelizes the brain to think positively.
THE ROLE OF HEALTHCARE TO INFORM AND PREVENT IT
The healthcare system can step up and leave an impact by making motherhood a safe space in the following ways-
1. Make Mental Health Screening a mandatory part of the six-week checkup-
The first checkup after childbirth happens after six weeks, where the mother’s physical recovery is assessed, and contraceptive options are discussed. What would make a major difference is screening the new mom’s mental health for depression and other mental health disorders. An early diagnosis helps to begin treatment sooner.
2. Make Postpartum / Antenatal Counselling mandatory –
During pregnancy and after childbirth, making counseling compulsory benefits the overall maternal mental health scenario. It will educate and inform the parents about the possible mood disorders that will help them to take action sooner. There should be sessions with the family so that they are on board with the same amount of information. It will also be a step towards breaking the stigma of mental health.
We need to assure mothers that they will be supported by health care providers, that they will be treated with dignity and will be offered the right maternity care every woman deserves.