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01st May 2019

Having a maternal mental health issue is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of

Jade Hayden

maternal mental health week

This week is Maternal Mental Health Week.

April 29 to May 5 marks a week of raising awareness for mental health issues that may arise during pregnancy and after a child is born.

MMHW’s campaign goal is to advocate for new mothers who are experiencing mental health issues and to provide signposts for support available for those who need it.

The campaign also hopes to end the stigma that so many new mothers fear they will face when experiencing a mental health issue.

Postpartum depression, anxiety, postpartum psychosis, and PTSD are just some of the problems that mothers-to-be or new mothers face as they become a parent.

And just like mental health issues faced by people who aren’t expecting a child, they are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

A 2018 study revealed that up 70 percent of new mothers may not even be aware that they are suffering, with one in five experiencing some sort of mood or anxiety disorder in the lead up to giving birth or in the first year of being a parent.

23 percent of women who died between six weeks and one year after pregnancy also died from maternal mental health related issues.

The issue may be prevalent – with the fear of speaking out being even more so – but it’s important to note that maternal mental health issues are not exclusive to a small group of people.

Nor are they something that should be ashamed of, or something that can’t be helped.

Last year, a new Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service launched at University Maternity Hospital Limerick to help support women experiencing mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

Dr Mas Mahady Mohamad told the Limerick Post that the main focus of the service is to provide high-quality care for women with mental health difficulties throughout pregnancy and up to the end of the first postnatal year.

A necessity that many mothers-to-be in the mid-west had been largely missing out before hand.

“Women who suffer from perinatal mental illness often do so in isolation, fearful of being stigmatised,” said Dr Mahady Mohamad

“In the two months that we’ve been in service, we’ve heard many personal stories of women who felt that they were not able to access help or support for their mental health needs.”

One of the most common mental health issues experienced by new mothers is postnatal depression with up to 15 percent of women living with its symptoms during the first year following birth.

These include panic attacks, feeling agitated, feeling rejected by your baby, deep sadness, problems sleeping, and guilt.

While these symptoms may arise in a lot of new mothers, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be addressed or talked about. After all, there is no shame in asking for help.

If you are struggling, you should contact your GP and see if they are able to refer you for treatment.

Alternatively, groups like Postnatal Depression Ireland run regular coffee mornings and support meetings for new mothers who are suffering.

The help is out there, and you’re definitely not on your own.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Aware on 1800 80 48 48, or contact your GP.