What is maternal mental health?
Maternal, or ‘perinatal’ mental health describes mental health in the period starting in pregnancy up to one year after the birth. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health.
What are the signs of a maternal mental health problem?
Here are some common signs of maternal anxiety and low mood. There are the most common mental health problems, but there are many complex factors that influence our mental health. One size does not fit all, and you are the expert on you – if you don’t feel ‘right’, tell someone.
Of course, it’s normal to experience worries as a new mum, especially with your first baby. There may be valid underlying causes of your anxiety, such as problems in pregnancy, or past losses. However, sometimes anxiety can become a problem n itself, and can include:
- Trouble sleeping (even when you have the opportunity)
- Persistent worried thoughts
- Persistently feeling like something dreadful is going to happen
- Physical symptoms like churning stomach, headaches, panic attacks
- Being so worried that you don’t take part in activities you normally would
- Low mood
Whilst ‘baby blues’ are normal, persistent low mood is not. This can look different for different people, but might include:
- Loss of interest in things you would normally enjoy
- Struggling to connect with your baby
- Loss of appetite, or eating much more than normal
- Feeling ‘disconnected’ from your normal self
What can I do about it?
The first step is the most important: tell someone. It’s best to talk to your GP or Health Visitor. Be honest about how you are feeling, and the impact it’s having on your life. It can be difficult to know what to say, especially if you haven’t experienced mental health problems before. If you need tham, here are some phrases you could start with:
- ‘I don’t feel well. I think I am struggling with anxiety/low mood/…’
- ‘I wanted to talk to you about my mood but I’m not sure where to start.’
- ‘Please could you ask me about my mental health because I’m not sure how to explain how I feel?’
- ‘I feel very anxious.’
For more information visit the NHS website https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/mental-health/
Dr Carla Runchman is a mum of two and clinical psychologist. She founded Mama Diary UK to promote the conversation around maternal mental health. You can follow her on Instagram at @mamadiaryuk www.instagram.com/mamadiaryuk and buy a copy of Mama Notes, the 12 week diary for new mums at www.mamadiary.co.uk