Common Postnatal Mental Health Issues

postnatal mental healthDepression is only one of the common postnatal mental health issues experienced by women.

Postnatal Mental Health Issues

Women can experience depression, anxiety, burnout, poor physical health, psychosis and many other health conditions apart from depression alone. For many women, mental health problems can start during pregnancy and continue after the birth.

Most healthcare systems screen for depression after birth – but only occasionally are women screened during pregnancy. This screening may pick up depression, but there are many other postnatal mental health issues which may not be picked up. Here are some psychological conditions that can affect women during pregnancy and postnatally.

Depression: During pregnancy women may feel tired – but it is not normal to feel disabled by tiredness and low energy.

Depression can be complicated or misdiagnosed, especially when there are health complications that over-shadow a woman’s healthcare. It is never okay to feel so overwhelmed that there are thoughts of ending your life; fortunately most health professionals are trained to ask questions to help you find the right sort of assistance.

Many women are ashamed and may hide their emotions, but the truth is healthcare professionals like midwives and GPs can help you best if you share your vulnerabilities. Counselling is very effective for treating depression and should be offered as a frontline treatment during pregnancy and beyond.

Anxiety: Many women and healthcare professionals will not consider that anxiety can be a concern during pregnancy. Pregnancy can cause symptoms that are similar to anxiety due to the increase in blood supply, hormonal changes and decreased abdominal space in later pregnancy. Anxiety can occur for normal reasons like increased sensitivity to a perceived “threat”. An arousal response can be normal for many women, but it is not normal to start avoiding going out completely, or feeling so scared that your heart is pounding with fear.

Trauma: Women with past trauma symptoms from abuse, operations or accidents are more at risk of relapse as memories of the past trauma may be triggered by entrance into a hospital, experiencing high levels of pain, memories of betrayal by social supports and use of medications that reduce a woman’s ability to control her birth experience.

All women benefit from emotional support and one-on-one care by a qualified midwife to avoid postnatal mental health issues. Trauma responses can be effectively treated during pregnancy, by discussing events where a woman may have felt helpless or not able to control the pain in an event that happened in the past. If a woman has a trauma trigger that is identified, then it can be helpful for healthcare staff to know about “what” to avoid saying, doing, or objects/things that may cause an adverse emotional response.

Relaxation and breathing exercises can be very effective when used to control anxiety caused by triggering traumatic memories.

Psychosis: A small number of women may be at risk of developing a psychotic episode after birth. Past mental health issues, trauma, bipolar, and schizophrenia can all increase vulnerability.

Having a supportive environment involving family, friends and health professionals like midwives, an obstetrician and your GP can help to reduce the risk of such an event. Managing complications and medications used during birth can improve outcomes, by working out the level of distress that is tolerable given the limitations that a mother may have due to past mental health episodes.

The good news is that our psychologists and counsellors have many ways to help women experiencing postnatal mental health issues. Please call 1800 877 924 for your free emotional health checkup, today!