Around 1 in 5 women will experience a mental health problem either during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. It can be really difficult to open up about a mental health problem at this point in life – a new mother might feel pressure to be happy, or worry that others may not think she’s able to look after her child.
The term ‘postpartum’ refers to the period before and after childbirth, usually defined as the time of pregnancy up to and including one year after giving birth. Physiological and emotional changes of pregnancy, labour and caring for a newborn baby can make this a vulnerable time for new mothers and fathers.
What we already know
Up to 20% of women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth. Depression is the most prevalent mental illness in the postpartum period, with around 10 to 14% of mothers affected during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby. Around 3% of new mothers are estimated to suffer with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Postpartum psychosis (also known as puerperal psychosis) affects around 2 in 1000 new mothers. Unlike milder forms of depression and anxiety, this severe condition is more likely to occur after childbirth and most cases are within the first few weeks of the baby being born.
Fathers also experience mental health difficulties during the postpartum period, although we know a lot less about this because there is a lot less research. Depression and anxiety are common in fathers during the postpartum period. We know that about 5-10% of men experience clinical depression during this period and 5-15% are affected by anxiety disorders.
The issue of postpartum mental illness is important not only because of the effect on the mother’s health, but the effects on the child’s health may impact on their emotional, cognitive and even physical development. Mental illness is also one of the leading causes of death in women in the postpartum period.
Areas of uncertainty
It is estimated that half of the cases of perinatal depression and anxiety in North America are not identified, so there is uncertainty over how to improve detection rates, as well as interventions for when high risk women are identified .
At Annie’s Place, we aim to help new mom’s deal with the postpartum period and help clients address maternal mental issues. We have skilled staff who can work with you or a loved one to provide the support that’s needed. We do this most often from the comfort of your own home and offer a flexible service that is needs based. Get in touch with us to learn more.