On World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day, Sarah Barr from New Beginnings Counselling focuses on the various kinds of illnesses that can affect mums.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week starts April 29th – May 3rd.
Maternal Mental Health Day is May 1st.

As many as 1 in 5 mothers experience some type of perinatal (during pregnancy)or postnatal (once baby arrives) mood and anxiety disorder. These illnesses can unfortunately go unnoticed and untreated.

No mum is immune, regardless of your age, background, job, etc. Mental health does not discriminate.

Symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy and the first 12 months after the baby is born.

Maternal Mental Health Week is about increasing awareness that will hopefully drive social change and improve the quality of care for women experiencing all types of maternal mental health illnesses.

Depression and anxiety during or after pregnancy is very common.

Mums may feel pressured into showing a filtered perspective of a “Super Mum” or a “Yummy Mummy”. Yet this idealistic picture of motherhood is not 100% real all of the time. Motherhood is also made up of struggles, loneliness and failures.


Below are details of maternal mental health illnesses.

• Perinatal anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy can include (like all symptoms listed they are guide and will vary for each mum). Feeling tense, nervous or fearing the worst. Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down. Having a busy mind, with intrusive or repeating negative thoughts. Dwelling on a negative situation or situations. Thinking about an experience over and over again (rumination). Finding it difficult to concentrate, being forgetful or having panic attacks.

• Perinatal depression

Research suggests depression that occurs during pregnancy, may be even more common than postnatal depression.

Symptoms include: Having a low mood, feeling irritable, loss of interest, poor sleep and appetite, poor concentration, lack of energy, feeling hopeless, withdrawing from people.

• Postnatal Depression:

This is a common problem, which has affected celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Adele. PND can start in the first year after giving birth, and is more than just a case of the ‘baby blues’(when new mums might temporarily feel a bit down or tearful after giving birth).

Symptoms include: All those listed for antenatal depression, as well as difficulty bonding with your baby, thinking you can’t look after your baby, having frightening thoughts (possibly about hurting the baby), thinking about suicide or self-harm.

If symptoms last more than two weeks, or start later than the first few weeks after birth, it may be PND and you should talk to your GP or health visitor.

Postnatal anxiety

Mothers who’ve had difficult or traumatic deliveries may have a higher risk of postnatal anxiety. This can develop gradually over time and they’re more likely to suffer from PND too.

Symptoms include: Frequently feeling nervous or anxious, worrying, finding it difficult to relax or sleep, struggling to bond with your baby, restlessness, irritability, constantly checking on your baby and thinking bad things will happen to him/her, palpitations and rapid breathing, dizziness, excessive sweating, muscle tension, tingling or pain.

• Maternal OCD

Studies suggest obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is more common during or after pregnancy, as mums are naturally focused on the safety of their new baby.
Symptoms can include: Fear of contamination, intrusive thoughts and worries about harm, doubts about equipment (for instance, thinking the bottle steriliser isn’t working), perfectionism (insisting everything around the house has to be a certain way), excessive tidying and cleanliness.

Occasionally experiencing some of these symptoms is normal for new mums. But if you don’t feel like yourself or your behaviour and thoughts are having a negative impact on your daily life and relationships, you may need to talk to someone. It is always advisable if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, talk to your midwife, health visitor, counsellor or GP.
There is effective treatment available that does work. This includes counselling, CBT and medication.

Suffering from a maternal mental health illness can be difficult. But with the right help and support, women can and do recover.

Becoming a mum is a life changing transition and your mental health needs to be cared for.

By taking this first step, you are prioritising your well-being and you will start to feel better.

Take Care ~ Sarah.

For further information please contact me via my Facebook page.