One in five women will experience a mental health problem during their pregnancy and in the first year after birth. Postnatal depression & anxiety in BAME mothers is 13% higher than in white mothers and studies find that black women are the group least likely to initiate treatment for postnatal mental illness, and the least likely to receive follow-up treatment.
It is important that you get the help you need as soon as possible because you deserve to feel well. Your GP, midwife and health visitor can provide you with support, advice and treatment and can refer you to a specialist perinatal mental health team if necessary.
Maternal mental illness- an overview
For a good overview of Maternal Mental Illness, the NHS website is useful and isn’t overwhelming - http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/mental-health-problems-pregnant.aspx
Depression in pregnancy affects around 10–15 out of every 100 pregnant women. It can be treated with medication and therapy if necessary and your GP may refer you to your local perinatal mental health team so that they can provide support while you are pregnant and after you have given birth.
NCT have produced this simple webpage for more information.
Tommy’s midwifery-led pregnancy line is available for anyone worried about mental health in pregnancy (0800 0147 800). Their very helpful website is here http://www.tommys.org .
Birth trauma is a phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth and around 10,000 women a year will experience it. The Birth Trauma Association have an informative website listing symptoms, details on how to access support and offers email support to women and their families. http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/
The Baby Blues
These happen in the first few days after birth and affect around 80 percent of women who have a baby.They last for a short period and the NHS say they are probably take place due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth.
Have a look at this link from the Association of Postnatal Illness for more information on the baby blues.
The baby blues should ease on their own without treatment. However , if it does not pass within around 10 days after birth and you are not feeling better, please speak with your GP, midwife or health visitor in case it is developing into postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression and Anxiety
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many women experience after having a baby.It affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth and there is a detailed list of symptoms on this website
You may also find it helpful to contact the Association for Postnatal Illness– http://apni.org and helpline 020 7386 0868. They provide a telephone helpline, information leaflets and a network of volunteers who have themselves experienced PND and can offer peer support to mums currently unwell.
This is a rare but serious mental illness that can affect a woman after she has a baby. It is considered medical emergency but it is important to know it is treatable and women do fully recover.
It normally begins in the first few days to weeks after childbirth. Most women need to be treated with medication and admitted to a specialist psychiatric mother and baby unit.
See http://www.app-network.org/ for more information.
This is sometimes also known as Perinatal OCD . You may experience unwanted thoughts, images, urges or doubts. These happen repeatedly and can make you very distressed and are often referred to as intrusive thoughts.
You may also experience anxiety and compulsions where you carry out rituals or avoiding certain activities.
More information can be found here -
http://www.maternalocd.org/ . Maternal OCD is a charity set up by mothers recovered from the Illness.
All the links above have details signposting to help and support. However, for ease, we have listed some further sources of support below.
Perinatal Mental Health International Online Peer Support Group . This is a group on Facebook administered by women with lived experience of maternal mental illness. If you would like to join, follow this link- https://www.facebook.com/groups/1732740973652517/ .
#PNDHour – Run by @PNDandme on Twittee every Wednesday at 8pm to discuss maternal mental illness. It provides a safe space to discuss topics surrounding pre and postnatal illness.
International Help – Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/get-help/locations/international/
If you need help now
If you are struggling and you need to talk to someone, please know you can contact The Samaritans free any time, from any phone, on 116 123
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts , these NHS pages have information to support you - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/ .
If your life is in danger , call 999 or attend Casualty.
If you need help and support locally or for details on mental health helplines , take a look at this information from Mind - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/crisis-services/helplines-listening-services/
Please take a look at this link for details on how to access support for maternal mental health, across the UK and beyond https://smalltimemum1.wordpress.com/2020/03/31/support-when-mums-need-it-most-perinatal-mental-health-support-during-covid-19-and-beyond/.
Eve Canavan BEM
Perinatal Mental Health Partnership