Suzanne is 21 years old and is studying midwifery. Suzanne decided to get involved with Student Life because she wants to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health conditions during pregnancy and up to a year following birth.
Perinatal mental health is the clinical word used to describe mental health conditions in pregnancy; local services also classify this as up to a year following birth.
1 in 5 women are affected with mental health conditions during pregnancy, which most commonly include anxiety and depression. It is important to recognise that you do not need to have experienced a previous mental health condition to be affected by one in pregnancy. However discussing your mental health, including previous conditions, can help your midwife provide the best support for you. Past history of mental health conditions could resurface during pregnancy due to the way the body changes, so the support from the midwife can help to tackle this. I feel many women are afraid to discuss this with their family and/or midwife through fear that it may have repercussions for themselves and/or their baby. We are here to help and support you, not make things worse. Also, you may have heard that medication shouldn’t be used in pregnancy to treat your mental health condition; this is not always true! In fact, a lot of women feel that coming off their medication is the best thing to do, however this could antagonise your mental health condition. It is important that you discuss this with your midwife and/or GP before stopping medication altogether.
There are normal emotional changes that occur during pregnancy, labour and following birth. Even if you are unsure about some emotional changes you can discuss this with your midwife, who will be there to listen to you and identify if you need a bit of extra support. Partners can be affected by mental health conditions during pregnancy too; it is just as important for partners to speak up if they are feeling concerned about their mental health.
Having a baby can be an emotionally-charged time, with many adjustments having to take place. Take a bit of time off for yourselves when you can, even if that is just having a nice, warm bath or popping over to a friend’s house for an hour or so for a catch up. An important message to take away from this article, is that it is important to speak up, and not try and cope in silence. The more we talk about these things, the less taboo they are.