What is perinatal mental health?
The term “perinatal,” refers to the period from conception up until one year postnatal. During this time, and even afterwards, mums and their partners are vulnerable to experiencing mental ill health, partly because pregnancy can be a worrying time but also because of the many changes that occur physically, emotionally, and practically.
Will the baby be ok at the scans? How will the labour be? How will we cope as a family? These are typical worries many experience during pregnancy. After birth, worries then tend to focus on the baby. What if my baby stops breathing? Are they feeding enough? Am I interacting with them properly?
During an already exhausting time, these anxieties can really take their toll and can cause low mood. We all hear about postnatal depression, but problems can also be around anxiety too.
The anxiety disorders that typically occur during this time are: Generalised Anxiety, Health Anxiety, OCD, Social Anxiety, Specific Phobias (for example needle phobia), and Birth Trauma.
Those who have a pre-existing mental health condition are at higher risk of their condition deteriorating. However, those who do not have a history of mental health problems can also experience perinatal mental illness.
We know that both mums and their partners can experience perinatal mental illness. Did you know a partner watching their wife during a traumatic birth can experience PTSD as a result? Or a mum who has always been a worrier can develop maternal OCD after the birth of their child? Read more about Postnatal Depression in Dad's/Partners here.
It is not meant to sound all doom and gloom because having a new baby is wonderful and exciting too. But we need to raise awareness that mental ill health can present itself at this time. The more prepared we are with facts and knowledge, the better we are at recognising the signs if things become too difficult.
The important thing to remember is there is hope that things can improve, and recovery is entirely possible with the right support and treatment.
If you feel you are in a place where you want to try CBT to help with any mental health difficulties you have been experiencing, I'd love to support you in any way I can. You can check my availability and book in your assessment here.