World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, perinatal anxiety, psychosis, PTSD and others

World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD
(Picture: Ella Byworth)

This week is Maternal Mental Health Week with focus on raising awareness of perinatal mental health problems.

metro illustrationsHalf of us wouldn’t be comfortable talking about mental health at work

While post-natal depression is fairly well known, there are a number of other pregnancy-related conditions that aren’t spoken about as much.

These include perinatal anxiety, perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum psychosis, PTSD and birth trauma.

If not addressed in the right way, these can have long-standing affects on a child’s emotional, social and cognitive development, according to NHS England.

Perinatal mental health problems are being taken much more seriously these days with around £365 million in funding pledged to the NHS to fund specialist care and help early diagnosis and treatments.

Perinatal anxiety: what is it, symptoms and treatment

World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD
(Picture: PA)

This can occur both before and after the baby is born.

Many women have a fear of giving birth, known as tokophobia, but worries after the birth can take hold as well such as feeling like your baby would be better off without you.

Symptoms can be both physical and mental. Physical signs include tense muscles, headaches, pin and needles, feeling light-headed, faster breathing, hot flushes, sweating, fast heartbeat, raised blood pressure, sleep problems, needing the toilet more often, churning pit of stomach and panic attacks.

Mental signs include a feeling of dread, feeling nervous, feeling like the world is speeding up, feeling like your mind is busy with your thoughts, dwelling negative experiences again and again (rumination), feeling numb and unable to concentrate.

Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy, self-help resources including mood gym, physical activity, breathing exercises and trying to shift your focus, as well as medication. Speak to a doctor for more information or look at the Mind website.

Perinatal OCD: What is it, symptoms and treatment

World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler/

Perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder that occurs either during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Common symptoms include having obsessions such as thinking about the same thing over and over again.

For example feeling like you have been contaminated by germs or dirt or worrying someone might get hurt. This often plays out with compulsive behaviour such as washing something over and over again to ensure it is clean. However, any relief from carrying out the compulsive behaviour is often short-lived and carrying out the compulsion can itself become distressing.

One mother described watching her baby 24/7 because she became so worried that someone would take her baby away – including not sleeping.

Treatment for perinatal OCD include cognitive behavioural therapy and medication. See the Mind website for more information here.

Postpartum psychosis: What is it, symptoms and treatment

metro illustrations
(Picture: Ella Byworth for

Postpartum psychosis is rare but is thought to occur in around one in 1,000 births.

Symptoms include depression, mania and psychosis. which can include delusions and hallucinations. Delusions can include believing you are related to someone famous when you do not share any relatives, that you are able to control the weather or that someone is trying to kill you.

Hallucinations meanwhile are when you see, hear, taste, smell or other sensations thing that aren’t actually around you.

It is believed that people at risk from developing postpartum psychosis include those with a family history of mental health problems, those who suffer from bipolar disorder and if the birth or pregnancy is traumatic.

Treatments include any psychotic drugs and antidepressants or electroconvulsive therapy if symptoms are very severe.

More information can be found on the Mind website here.

Birth trauma and PTSD: What is it, symptoms and treatment

World Maternal Mental Health Week: Post-natal depression, anxiety, psychosis and PTSD
(Picture: Ella Byworth for

Anyone who has gone through a traumatic birth is at risk of developing PTSD or birth trauma.

This might be due to a difficult labour with a long and painful delivery, an unplanned caesarean, emergency treatment and other unexpected shocks during the birth.

Birth trauma is often underestimated with many assuming that the baby is adequate compensation for that.

Instead many may feel disappointed that childbirth was not the experience they expected and angry at medical staff about the delivery.

With PTSD you can develop unwanted flashback too and relive the trauma of the birth.

Symptoms include vivid flashbacks, nightmares, alertness or feeling on edge, avoiding feelings or memories by keeping busy, being unable to express affection, irritability and aggressive behaviour, recklessness, physical sensations such as sweating, nausea and trembling.

Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. medication isn’t usually offered.

More information on the Mind website here.

What is Maternal Mental Health Week all about?

Maternal Mental Health Week runs from May 1 until May 7 with the focus on ensuring women, family and friends know where they can get support for perinatal mental health matters.

The week is also about raising awareness of postnatal depression, the symptoms and getting treatment.

People will be tweeting through-out the week with the hashtag #maternalMHmatters as well as there being a daily #PNDHour between 8pm and 9pm on Twitter.

There are also a number of events and activities through the week – especially on Maternal Mental Health Day which this year was on May 3.

More information about events here.

MORE: Being chronically ill as a child is linked to experiencing mental health problems as an adult

MORE: World Maternal Mental Health Day: 12 ways you can support someone with postnatal depression