‘’Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy, with around 12% of women experiencing depression and 13% experiencing anxiety at some point; many women will experience both. Depression and anxiety also affect 15‑20% of women in the first year after childbirth. Postpartum psychosis affects between 1 and 2 in 1000 women who have given birth.’’ (NICE, 2018). What are your thoughts on the above statistics?
In my opinion, percentages such as 10% and 20% reveal an issue that is very common and, therefore, can happen to anyone. Perinatal mental health problems are not related to your socio-economic status or your ethnic background. They are not related to your mental health history either; even if you had not experienced similar symptoms before, pregnancy might be a hard time for you.
Real life stories
Have you ever heard a woman talking about her experiences of perinatal mental health problems? In this article, I would like to give you the opportunity to spend a few minutes trying to empathise with those women. Going through a time that is expected to be the happiest of your life, though feeling low, anxious or really confused and paranoid.
Fatimah Jackson-Best mentioned in her talk that 80% of women experience baby blues (i.e. low mood that does not last long). The period following the delivery of the baby is the most vulnerable time for women to have a mental disorder.
Symptoms of perinatal problems include: feeling no connection to the baby, having thoughts of harming the baby, having feelings of shame and thoughts that you are not a good mother.
Lisa Abramson experienced post-partum psychosis and depression. She felt really confused and defeated in the first years after having her baby. The advice that she will give to other mothers experiencing mental health issues is:
- Remember that it is not your fault
- You are not alone
- Your symptoms are nothing to be ashamed for
- You are not a bad mother
- You will get better, just get help right away
Lindsay Robinson experienced post-natal depression. She openly declared that motherhood had not turned out the way she expected. It was dark, lonely, frightening, long and hard for her. She experienced little joy as well as shame and embarrassment for having mental health symptoms. It was hard for her to be around other mothers who were happy. She felt like a failure and experienced thoughts such as: ‘’This is all my fault’’, ‘’I am the only one’’, ‘’I cannot be a mum’’.
If you experience any similar symptoms or know someone who does, make sure you ask for help right away. You might feel like isolating yourself. You might be really tired and have no motivation. You might not feel like talking to your friends and family. However, it is so important to share what you experience and get the right support.
Idyli Kamaterou was born in Greece and studied Psychology in Athens. She completed her MSc in Counselling Studies at The University of Edinburgh and continued her studies in Mental Health at Middlesex University. She specialised in Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy at the University of Oxford, and she is a fully accredited member of the BABCP (British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies).
Her UK experience is wide and includes teaching children and young people with autism spectrum and developmental disorders, working on a general psychiatric ward in Edgware Community Hospital in London and being part of multi-disciplinary community mental health teams for people with psychotic and non-psychotic disorders.
In the last few years, she has been working therapeutically with people who experience conditions, such as anxiety disorders (stress, social anxiety, health anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, low self-esteem, panic and chronic pain or/and long-term conditions.
She has a special interest in geriatric psychology which got her involved in running a pilot program for older adults with long-term conditions at Woking Community Hospital, Surrey, which involves individual and group interventions. She is also organising and running workshops and educational programs for charity organisations in the UK.