Maternal Mental Health Week: The Power of Connection​

One of the most difficult things many mothers have had to accept is that pregnancy, birth and post-partum were not what they wanted or expected. The Power of Connection is this year\’s theme for maternal mental health week – a campaign aimed at talking about mental health issues affecting women during and after pregnancy.​

​Maternal mental health​

Many women have been living under the false premise that they have to be ALL the things, all at once, leaving a large number of pregnant mothers feeling overwhelmed and anxious in their journeys of motherhood. Many women even suffer from perinatal and post-partum depression, which are mood-disorders that affect women from the moment they discover their pregnancy and continues throughout to post partum when she has given birth. The consequences of post partum depression are far-reaching, affecting the infant, your spouse, the wider family and wider community. Nevertheless, it is one of the most treatable complications and it is paramount that health workers identify and manage the condition promptly and effectively.​

Causes of maternal mental health disorders​

It\’s not yet clear what causes the changes in mood affecting mothers, as symptoms of depression can sometimes overlap with the effects of a normal pregnancy. Hormonal shifts, increased stress and environmental changes often play a role in contributing to post partum depression, unlike symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain and shifts in sleeping patterns which occur in most pregnancies. Post partum depression may be mistaken for “baby blues” at first, but the signs and symptoms last longer and are more intense. A mother experiencing “baby blues” would have mood swings, anxiety and sadness for a brief time, but a postpartum mom will have severe mood swings, have difficulty bonding with the baby, and have thoughts of harming herself or the baby. These symptoms may extend over a long period of time, sometimes up to a year after giving birth.​

​It\’s more common than you think​

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, \”between 9.7% to 23.5% of people who are pregnant experience perinatal depression symptoms. Demographic groups at the highest risk of perinatal depression include women aged 19 years and younger, those who smoke during and after pregnancy, and those whose babies died after birth.\” Research also shows that the risk of perinatal depression is even higher (30% to 40%) among low-income women. Sadly, people in this group are even less likely to seek help when they are suffering, as the fear of being judged as a “bad mother” prevents them from speaking out. Women who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss are still at risk of postpartum depression, which is naturally made worse with the feelings of grief and loss that come with such tragic events. ​

The stigma around maternal mental health​

Misinformation and societal judgement around maternal mental health keeps parents from getting help. There is a strongly-held opinion in society that a woman should be immediately overjoyed at being a mother, and any negative emotions she may feel during pregnancy and after giving birth are written off as abnormal. This couldn’t be further from the case, and this opinion is highly dangerous, as it stops women from speaking out and getting help. ​

The talking cure

Talk therapy has proved to be very effective in helping mothers cope. If you know someone who has given birth recently, you can support the new mom by:​

  • Offering to spend casual time with her​
  • Respecting her boundaries​
  • Offering practical support like household chores, running errands and watching the baby so Mom can nap​
  • Allowing her freedom and space to vent without judgement​
  • Offering words of encouragement and support​
  • Listening​

​If you think you may be suffering from post partem depression or any other birth-related mental health issue, remember that you are not alone in your struggles. Even on the days you feel like you are failing, there is always help available to you. Don’t be afraid to speak out!​


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