Let’s think about this for a minute. Suddenly you are told that nearly every element of your life is about to change. To some, this is something they have been working towards for awhile, to others it is a complete shock.
Even those who were planning to become parents, what lies in front of them is overwhelming.
Suddenly your body begins to change, your income can change, your home may change. You may even need to hang up that motorcycle jacket. These are legitimate reasons for anxiety. Coupled with the cocktail of hormones running through your body, no wonder it gets the better of us.
Anyone who is responsible for another’s needs knows that being a mother is one of the hardest jobs out there so coping with a mental illness can make life feel impossible. Many women suffer from a pregnancy related form of mental illness and it does not discriminate between types of mothers, how much money you have, your religion, your age or your career.
Being pregnant puts a lot of stress on our bodies and our minds. Health problems can pop up out of nowhere (e.g. High Blood pressure, Gestational Diabetes) and just like the physical problems, mental problems can also pop up. The most common types are anxiety and depression but other more serious types can occur.
It is therefore very important to be able to recognise the symptoms in yourself and your loved ones so you can seek medical attention as soon as possible. The sooner you get help the sooner you will be well. The term Post Natal Depression is used to describe depression brought about by pregnancy but there are actually several forms of illness that women may experience, including:
This is a form of depression that hits during pregnancy. This affects one in ten Australian women (9 %) and the long term effects of the news can be very stressful. An unplanned pregnancy, sole parenting obligations or an adolescent pregnancy can be quite traumatic.
Most new mothers suffer from some form of sadness and irritability. They can also have sleeping, appetite and concentration problems. These symptoms occur within a few days of giving birth and last a couple of days. It is normal and is caused by the hormonal changes during and after birth. If you have them, there is no cause for alarm. Once your hormones level out, you will be feeling better. Support and rest is the best treatment.
This occurs between 1 month and 12 months after giving birth. It affects 1 in 7 Australian women (16%) and the symptoms are similar to those of the Baby Blues but these symptoms don’t disappear after a week or two. The symptoms are as follows:
- wanting to escape
- having thoughts about harming yourself or the baby.
- trouble making decisions, poor memory
- not eating or over-eating
- unable to cope with routine and feeling unmotivated
- not looking after yourself properly
- not wanting to be alone
- not wanting to go out
- being teary a lot
- feeling anger and resentment towards your partner
- not enjoying activities you used to enjoy
- insomnia or sleeping excessively
- low energy levels
- felling like a failure
Some women who have never had bipolar disorder but have a history in their family may experience it for the first time during pregnancy or after the birth. Some women can have a relapse at this time too. The symptoms include intense focus on fears of not being a good parent and concerns for the babies health.
The cause of this illness is not known although it does seem to dog women with existing conditions like bipolar disorder and those who have suffered from puerperal psychosis with previous births. It is extremely rare, affecting no more than 2 in every 1000 births. This condition manifests in a new mother before the 12 week mark and causes the mother to be very confused. She is at high risk of self harm and or harming others.
Treatment for these disorders is very important as a mental health issue can have long term effects on everyone in the home. Your GP or obstetrician will help you to decide on your treatment plan. The most important thing is to talk to a health professional about getting the right treatment. Remember, the faster you get help, the faster you can recover.
This treatment refers to the ‘Talking Therapies’. These are an effective way of e.g. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT).
Hospitals / Mother and Baby Units
If a mother has severe symptoms, complicated medical problems, a danger to herself or others, it can be recommended that the mother and baby go to hospital so that they are in a safe place while they can work out the best treatment for mum. Whenever possible, mothers and babies are kept together.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
In the case of severe depression where the mother and baby are at risk of suicidal urges, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is conducted by a specialist psychiatrist. The risks to the woman and unborn baby from the treatment are low.
Herbal and homoeopathic therapies are sometimes used as alternatives to medications. Some of these supplements may interact adversely with medications such as antidepressants and you should always talk to a health professional about any alternative medicines you are taking or planning to take.
“If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – http://www.stayathomemum.com.au/…/important-hotlines-websi…/“
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.”