Maternal Mental Health

Prenatal, Birth Trauma and Postnatal Support in Dublin

Dr Louise Clarke, Director of The Consulting Clinic. Member of The Perinatal Mental Health Specialist interest Group, Psychological Society Ireland.

As a Psychologist with a specialist interest in perinatal mental health, I am privileged to have meet many great women over the years in my work who have shared their personal struggles in pregnancy, birth and becoming a mother. In therapy we work through the heavy thoughts and emotions of perinatal mental health. However, while some women reach out for support, there are many women unfortunately that suffer alone and don’t know where to get help. With world mental health awareness week which runs this week, it is an important week to raise awareness to the much-needed support that women need during pregnancy, post birth and throughout motherhood. The tagline this year is #makingovermotherhood; which aims to raise awareness about maternal mental health disorders, like postpartum depression. It also aims to combat stigma and shame by giving women a platform to talk about their struggles with the hope of helping others to reach out. Mothers all over the world have participated in the #MakingOverMotherhood, sharing their experience of motherhood that are normally hidden behind closed doors.

So how are all of you mum’s that are reading this blog? Do you check in with yourself regularly, occasionally or at all? The importance of pausing and checking in on ourselves is paramount. It can be hard in the chaos of life but very important to our overall mental health.

Becoming a mother challenges us in many ways, starting with the physical challenges of pregnancy, birth and post birth and the emotional rollercoaster that often gets forgotten. While it is important to acknowledge that motherhood is an amazing miracle, it is also important to highlight that many mothers struggle. Unfortunately, many women suffer depression and anxiety. I have included information on prenatal depression, birth trauma and postnatal depression. If you can identify with the symptoms listed in this article, reach out to someone close to you, your GP or seek therapeutic confidential support.

Prenatal Depression: When women experience depression during pregnancy, it is called prenatal depression. Prenatal depression is common. More than one in 10 of pregnant women experience depression. 

What are the signs of depression in pregnancy?

It can often be difficult to differentiate what are the symptoms of depression and what are the normal emotional, mental and physical changes that can occur during pregnancy. However, persistent symptoms to keep an eye out for include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Withdrawing from friends
  • Decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Daily negative thoughts
  • Change in appetite – lack of or increased eating
  • Feeling restless
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Decrease in self-care.

Psychological Birth Trauma (PBT): The delivery of a baby can be a positive experience for some women, but for others it can be traumatic. The Psychological trauma may be a result of the physical injury experienced during the birth. It may also be as a result of the experience eliciting high anxiety and feeling a loss of control. Trauma may continue long after the birth, with distinct psychological symptoms. 

Symptoms of Birth Trauma

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Feelings of intense fear in reaction to reminders of the experience
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic experience on a regular basis
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic experience during sexual relations
  • Poor sleep
  • Low persistent mood
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of interest in previous enjoyable actives 
  • Nightmares of the birth experience
  • Avoiding reminders of the traumatic birth such as the place of birth a 
  • Struggling to bond with your baby
  • Feeling disconnected from others

Many women will experience a traumatic birth with no follow up support. 

Postpartum Depression (PPD), also known as Postnatal depression (PND), is a type of depression that affects some women after having a baby. Typically, it develops within four to six weeks after giving birth, but it can sometimes take several months to appear. Researchers from Northwestern Medicine reported in JAMA Psychiatry that postpartum depression affects 1 in every 7 new mothers.

Symptoms may include:

  • Crying
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of interest in actives you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Persistent feeling of fatigue
  • Changes in appetite or eating habits
  • Headaches, stomach aches or backaches
  • Anger
  • Irritability or hypersensitivity
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends

Complications

Left untreated, perinatal, birth trauma or postpartum depression can interfere with the health and of mother and child and their attachment bond. It is important to break the silence and get support. 

The journey of Motherhood: Maternal mental health is important throughout the years of being a mother, it doesn’t stop after the first year. If you worry a lot, feel anxious, experience panic attacks or feel low in mood reach out for support, don’t suffer in silence.

Perfectionism in Motherhood: The strive for perfectionism in parenthood is an epidemic. Many of us, myself included – embark on the journey of parenthood with the aim of being the perfect parent. The strive for this ideal is often driven by the anxiety of not wanting to make mistakes and to provide the best care to our children, We want to do it all, and to be like the parent down the road that seems to have it all together! We want to be supermum! Click here for tips on managing perfectionism in motherhood.

Treatment for maternal depression and anxiety

Acknowledgement of the problem is the first important step to recovery.

If you are not feeling OK that’s OK!

Unfortunately, a barrier to accessing treatment can often be the fear of being judged which elicits shame and guilt. However, it is important to access treatment for support and recovery. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) has shown success rates for anxiety, depression and posttraumatic stress. 

If you are suffering in pregnancy, post birth or at any stage of motherhood and need extra support, contact the clinic today to arrange a confidential and compassionate appointment and take the steps towards feeling better. Book here

#MAKEOVERMOTHERHOOD

© The Consulting Clinic 2020.