Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day -- a time set apart to recognize and spread awareness about the maternal mental health crisis that exists around the world, and how it can be addressed.
First, let's take a look at the stats about maternal mental health, which includes disorders during pregnancy and postpartum (including up to one year after birth) of depression, anxiety, OCD, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar, and psychosis.
Currently, around the world, 2 out of 10 people who are having babies have a mental health problem either during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. Of those, 75% do not receive a diagnosis or treatment, which would improve or cure symptoms and overall health. (Source) What this means is that a whole lot of people are not getting the medical care they need, which results in negative consequences and outcomes for mothers, parents, fathers, babies, and families, as well as the society at large since mental health issues can prevent people from working and contributing back in society.
There are many reasons why pregnant people and parents are not getting adequate care for mental health, many of which could be easily addressed. Some people do not have access to affordable health care. Some do not recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues. Some doctors dismiss or downplay symptoms. Some people are too ashamed or embarrassed to speak up about their symptoms due to the stigma that mental health issues still carries. Sometimes, mental health disorder symptoms take hold of a person so intently that it prevents them from wanting or believing they need to seek treatment.
The most important thing you can do to improve the world's maternal mental health crisis is become aware of the symptoms, share that information with others, and ask yourself or someone you know who is pregnant or who has had a baby in the last year: how are you feeling?
Take a look and familiarize yourself with the following symptom descriptions for mental health disorders that can occur during pregnancy and postpartum (sourced from Postpartum Support International).
Common Symptoms of Depression During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or self
Common Symptoms of Anxiety During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of baby, panic attacks, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling
Common Symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts
Common Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth or past trauma; symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event
Common Symptoms of Bipolar Mood Disorder During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Bipolar mood disorder includes "low" phases and "high" phases. The low time is called depression and can appear as severe depression. The high time is called mania or hypomania and shows symptoms of euphoric, elevated, expansive or irritable mood with increased energy; racing thoughts; frenzied speech/speaking; decreased need for sleep; grandiose thoughts; restlessness; quickly changing topics in conversation to things that don't relate; impulsivity or poor judgement.
Common Symptoms of Psychosis During Pregnancy or Postpartum
Seeing and hearing voices or images that others can’t -- hallucinations; believing things that aren’t true and distrusting those around them; confusion and memory loss; seem manic. Immediate help and care is need immediately for this dangerous condition.
To learn more about all of these mental health disorders, visit Postpartum Support International's "learn more" page.
To help spread the word with others, share this post on social media. Use #MaternalMHMatters with your post as part of the World Maternal Mental Health campaign. Together, we can make a difference to improve the treatment and care of mental health during pregnancy and postpartum.