Mental health problems are common at any time. Pregnancy and following delivery are no different.
It is estimated that 12% or women experience depression in pregnancy and up to 13 % have anxiety. This rises after birth to 15-20% (1 in 5 to 6) in the first year after their baby is born. There is a very rare condition called postpartum psychosis which affects around 1 in 1,000 women. It is slightly more likely to occur in women with a history of bipolar disorder.
It is therefore important that you tell your obstetrician if you have a history of mental health problems. They can then work with your GP to make sure a plan of care is in place.
The symptoms of mental health problems include:
- Feeling down,
- Depressed or hopeless,
- Having little interest or pleasure in things that you usually enjoy,
- Feeling anxious, nervous or on edge
- Not being able to stop worrying about things.
It’s very common to have a temporary dip in mood 2 to 3 days after the birth. The “baby blues”, but these usually don’t last very long. Another vulnerable time is at three months if your maternity leave has ended. It is common to feel anxious about being separated from your baby. Returning to work and learning to juggle childcare, life and work commitments can feel overwhelming. This may be even more difficult if your family are overseas. A good approach is to expect and prepare for these emotions. Discuss with your partner and support network and make plans to support you in this time.
If you experience the symptoms above for more than a few days share this with your partner and your doctor. Some women are scared to voice these concerns. They worry that they will be judged as not coping and their baby will be taken away. It is very uncommon to separate a baby and mother. It is only done in cases of severe mental health issues requiring hospitalisation. Or if there are safeguarding concerns such as child neglect, suicidal thoughts or drug and alcohol issues. It is safest to talk about mental health concerns so that your GP and obstetrician can care for you.