Dealing with Perinatal Mental Health Issues

woman and baby

Pregnancy is a life-changing experience for any woman. Her body miraculously grows a little person, who – after 40 weeks – suddenly makes their presence very known! And though having a baby is joyous and exciting, the journey is understandably not without its challenges. As Irene Lowry from Nurture Health explains, many women struggle with a variety of mental health issues, especially during what’s known as the perinatal stage...

What is Perinatal Mental Health?

The perinatal period is any time from conception to around a year after baby’s birth. Perinatal mental health then, refers to any issues that cause complications for the mum during this time.

Perinatal Mental Health Statistics

“Every year in Ireland, around 6,000 women will battle depression in pregnancy”, Irene begins. “7,500 will experience a traumatic birth, and approximately 18,000 will be diagnosed with post-natal depression. The figures are staggering and very high.” Though perinatal mental health issues can strike out of the blue, they’ve often been experienced by the woman before. “Generally,” says Irene, “research shows that if you’ve suffered from OCD, anxiety or depression in early adult life, it can trigger again with the hormone levels present during pregnancy.”

upset mother with baby

Education is Key

A big part of Nurture’s offering is helping to prepare a woman and her partner for pregnancy, birth and life with a new baby. As with many things in life, stress and anxiety during pregnancy often stem from a fear of the unknown. “Education is key”, says Irene. “We tell a woman, ‘this might happen’, and if it does, we’ll signpost her to A, B or C.” That way, she’s armed with information, and less likely to panic when she suddenly finds herself caring for a newborn.

Dealing with Traumatic Birth

Another thing that’s not talked about enough, says Irene, is the whole area of traumatic birth. No matter how tough the delivery, women are usually expected to return home and transition smoothly into the role of new mum. But if the birth was particularly challenging, she may end up suffering PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. “The repercussions of a traumatic birth are very real”, says Irene. “If something goes wrong during delivery, the woman may experience anxiety, stress and flashbacks when she returns home.”

stressed parents with baby

A Strain on the Relationship

Of course, if a new mum is feeling intense pressure, her partner will naturally be very concerned. They’ll want to offer support but may not know how. “A lot of partners tell us they feel helpless”, says Irene. “Many women we counsel tell us they’re terrified when their partner leaves the house, because they’re feeling so vulnerable.”

Support from Nurture Health

Irene and the Nurture Health team offer a range of immediate and accessible services to new parents; from one-on-one counselling to facilitated support groups. Their counsellors work in most Irish counties and operate a ‘no wait list’ policy. Find out more about them here.

Irish Life Health members on selected plans get a contribution towards maternity mental health counselling sessions with Nurture Health. Please check your table of cover for details. To find out more about parenting benefits, click here.

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