Author: Sara-Jayne Carcerano
The first Wednesday of May is recognized as World Maternal Mental Health Day. This year join with others around the world on May 4th to spread awareness of Maternal Mental Health. Likewise, Maternal Mental Health week will be recognized from May 2nd to 8th this year.
Maternal Mental Health Day is a day to spread awareness about mental illness that occur during pregnancy and within the first 12 months after birth, called perinatal Mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).
PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum bipolar, and postpartum psychosis.
Anyone can be at risk of developing a PMAD, whether or not you have experienced mental health issues in the past. Worldwide statistics show that 1 in 5 new moms and 1 in 10 new dads report having a PMAD. However, this number is probably higher as many cases go unreported. Experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, babies in the NICU and high risk pregnancy conditions increases the risk of developing a PMAD.
Some signs to look out for are:
- Feelings of sadness/depression that last for more than a few weeks
- Loss of interest in your baby and being a mother
- Excessive worrying about your baby
- Strong anxiety, tension, and/or fear either about your child or other things
- Difficulty sleeping when tired or sleeping more than usual and still feeling tired
- Suicidal thoughts and/or thoughts of harming your baby
- Loss of or increase in appetite or weight
- Trouble focusing, remembering things, or making decisions
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, or hyperventilation
If you are experiencing any of these signs, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. This can include: reaching out to family and friends, Let them know how you are feeling and ask for help; talk to your Doctor and/or midwife; call your local crisis line.
Experiencing Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP) is a high risk pregnancy condition that can put you at a higher risk of developing a PMAD or struggle with your mental health short term or long term.
The most common symptom of ICP is itching which at times can be unbearable, this can make it difficult to sleep and focus during the day which can affect your mental health.
Those experiencing ICP sometimes report feeling dismissed by their health care providers which can also affect your mental health. However, you can also use this experience to feel confident in advocating for yourself and your baby and feel more empowered. You can also join in advocating for ICP symptoms to become part of routine screening questions during pregnancy to normalize patient concerns.
ICP patients commonly have labour induced to deliver their babies at a safe time. When sharing this news, you may experience judgemental comments around being induced. While this may cause some negative feelings, you can use this concern as an opportunity to educate people by sharing that sometimes babies don’t come when they are ready, sometimes they are safer out than in.
There are several things you can do to either decrease your risk of developing a PMAD or improve outcomes if you do develop a PMAD. These include: eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep (if sleeping at night is challenging because of itching, try getting a nap in during the day), and have a support network. Reach out and let people know how you are feeling (your partner, family and friends, healthcare providers) and let them know specific things you might need help with. The sooner you get help, the better the outcomes will be for you and your baby.
Use Maternal Mental Health Day as an opportunity to reflect on your own mental health, even if you haven’t or are not currently experiencing a PMAD. Everyone has hard days and can feel overwhelmed by the demands of pregnancy and parenthood. However, it is important to consistently evaluate your own mental health and reach out for support when needed. Recognizing where you are at and support for new parents can be a preventative measure for more serious mental health concerns.
Family Support / Board Secretary
Family Support / Board Secretary