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How To Maintain Maternal Mental Health When Everything Gets Too Much

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Did you know that a woman is more likely to experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or within the first year of delivery than at any other time in her life? Dr. Marie Thompson, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director tells us more.

Recent research has suggested that as many as one in four women will experience depression, anxiety or other mental health problems during pregnancy or within the first year of delivery. This makes negative thoughts, unpleasant and intrusive images and self-criticism very common.

What about Men?

Research also demonstrates the impact of this time on the men involved. Watching their loved one go through all that is entailed in carrying and delivering a baby can leave some men feeling helpless. This is especially the case in a traumatic birth or when things don’t go quite according to plan. Furthermore, evidence points to a physical hormonal change in men too, which contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety postnatally for fathers.

So all in all, conceiving, carrying, delivering and then caring for an infant can be a tricky time for many.

Prevention

There are a number of factors that are shown to be helpful at such a time. Namely, a supportive partner and family, an open mind in the delivery room and not getting caught up in doing things perfectly.

Be kind, seek support and take breaks

Research shows that being kind to yourself is an important part of dealing with low mood and anxiety at this time. Understand that this is common, that no-one does this perfectly and give yourself permission to feel anxious or low. Being angry at yourself for not coping as well as you’d like adds a whole layer to this that you don’t need.

No-one expects you to do this on your own. Don’t be afraid to lean on people. If you don’t have family support (or even if you do) consider bringing in reinforcements from a nanny or nursing agency. An extra pair of hands for a few hours allows you time to look after yourself and gives you a break. If you’re battling depressed or anxious thoughts, it’s even more important to look after yourself. Don’t isolate yourself. Share how you’re feeling with your husband, friend, support group or professional.

Signs that you may benefit from professional support.

We can assume that the first weeks and months are going to feel all over the place. Your mood will be up and down and you’re likely to feel more irritable and a little anxious at times. That said, it’s important to know when these normal experiences become something needing professional support. Here are some signs to look out for:

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling low, hopeless or numb – some people describe feeling nothing at all
  • Lack of interest and/or pleasure in life, yourself or the baby
  • No energy – finding it difficult to cope and get through the day
  • Often feeling close to tears, highly sensitive to other’s comments or emotional
  • Feeling angry, irritable or resentful towards other mothers, the baby or your partner
  • Changes in sleep – not being able to sleep even when you have the opportunity, or conversely, wanting to sleep all the time
  • Changes in appetite – accompanied by weight loss or weight gain
  • Difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly or making simple decisions
  • Feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
  • Thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or other children.

Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Feelings of fear and worry which begin to ‘take over’ your thinking
  • Feeling irritable, restless, tense or constantly ‘on edge’
  • Racing heart/strong palpitations – sometimes panic attacks
  • Recurring worrying thoughts such as that you are not doing things right and/or that something terrible will happen
  • Distressing images keep going through your mind
  • Unable to sleep – even when you have the opportunity
  • Avoiding situations for fear something bad will happen.

If you notice that some of the above symptoms apply to you and they have been present for two weeks or more, and/or they are particularly troubling, it’s a good idea to seek professional support.

Treatment

International guidelines for best practice recommend cognitive behaviour therapy in the treatment of anxiety and depression in the antenatal and postnatal periods. Sometimes (but not always) medication is necessary and some medications are safe to use when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Maternal Mental Health Services

Because the impact of maternal mental health problems can be significant if left untreated, at Vivamus we have a focus on emotional health in pregnancy and after birth. We routinely address the following:

  • Depression and anxiety during pregnancy
  • Postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during pregnancy and Postnatal PTSD
  • Birth trauma
  • Fear of childbirth (tokophobia)
  • Assistance in bonding with the new baby
  • Support for the father
  • Support for the couple during pregnancy and in the first year (and beyond!).

We don’t judge, we listen and we provide treatments that are shown to be helpful in getting you and your family back on track.
For appointments with Dr. Marie Thompson visit 
www.vivamus.me E-mail: hello@vivamus.me or call: 04 4403844

Featured image sourced via Unsplash.

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