The Touchy Subject Of Maternal Mental Health

Whether you are pregnant or have recently given birth, let me ask you one question: How are you really doing? I mean, REALLY?

In honour of Maternal Mental Health Week , let’s open the conversation about a touchy subject.

1 in 4 women suffer from perinatal mental health issues, they experience feelings of sadness, overwhelming or disturbing thoughts, panic, OCD, anger, anxiety and other mood disorders like depression around the time of the birth of their baby.  This puts mental health issues right up there with the most common complications surrounding birth!  It’s not only a postpartum problem either, a lot of women suffer through pregnancy, too.

So why is the subject so touchy?  If we have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy, we get it checked.  Mental health care should be no different and as easy and accessible to perinatal women as any other antenatal care.

When it comes to pregnancy and motherhood, the stigma surrounding mental health seems to intensify.  Many women are VERY reluctant to share what’s going on for them for fear of being stigmatised.  They might also feel that their issues are merely a character flaw, that they’re not good enough and that they should be happy and coping - just like everyone else.  Having a baby is supposed to be this amazing, magical time in a woman’s life.  If there appears to be nothing wrong, many women feel extremely guilty about admitting that they are struggling.

While in very rare cases thoughts of self harm or even harming the baby turn become real, this is certainly not the case for the vast majority of women but if left untreated, mental health can make life feel unmanageable.  Whenever someone feels at risk of harming themselves or their baby, it must absolutely be treated as an emergency and cannot be dismissed.

The good news? YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

A Doula, being a trained birth/postpartum support professional, can help by recognising some of the signs and ensure the mother gets the assistance she needs, as soon as possible and before things start to spiral out of control.  Despite long waiting lists, a diagnosis made by a qualified mental health professional is the first step in receiving treatment.

Doulas Listen

I get to know the people I provide care to.  I listen and sometimes it’s about what is NOT being said.  I ask you how you are and I am not uncomfortable with an honest conversation.

Being brushed off with comments like “It will pass”, “Just baby blues, it’s normal” or “You’re still being hormonal”, even though anxious/depressed feelings are persistent, only serves to make matters worse.  Doulas may be the only ones to validate a client’s feelings and suggest further investigation and we have the contacts!

Doulas Provide Resources

A professional Doula is well connected to the available maternity support people in her area and can share information and resources with her client.

A Doula will also have resources for additional support, like a massage therapist, acupuncturist or support groups for mothers.

Doulas Give You A Break

Doulas are trained in providing support for families throughout the day AND the night.  With the postpartum period comes the feeling of utter exhaustion.  With the right postpartum support, families can get a break which can make dealing with mental health struggles just that bit less hard.

Doulas Do Not Judge

With pregnancy comes an avalanche of unsolicited advice.  Everyone has the best way of doing things and is not afraid to share!  You should be doing this, your baby should be doing that.  Wait, what?  Your baby is not sleeping through yet??!  New parents often feel overwhelmed and as if they are doing it all wrong.  You can imagine what that does to someone who is already experiencing mental health challenges.

A Doula is there for you, providing you with the support that YOU have decided is right for you.  Evidence based information and giving parents the tools to find their very own way of birthing and parenting contributes to the family’s happiness in a big way.

Doulas Help You To Support Yourself

With all the conflicting information available, we often forget to listen to ourselves.  Our instincts tell us so much and we Just. Don’t. Listen.  A Doula will help you to slow down and recognise the amazing work you are doing!

I see you and I believe in you.