2021 Sep 20
New mothers or pregnant mothers can experience a wide range of emotions. And those emotions can be of compassion and love, or things can take a darker shade as well. Mothers can feel various levels of anxiety and distress, or even feel overwhelmed, during or after their pregnancy. These feelings may either go away, or they may remain for some time.
Some new mothers may have a personal or family history tied to mental conditions, and others may not have any history. Based on this, doctors and family members can be extra vigilant and take more care of the mother’s mental health.
New mothers can suffer from three types of mental related issues. Post-Partum Blues, Post-Partum Depression and Post-Partum Psychosis. Now, even though the words ‘post-Partum’ indicate that these take place after the birth of the child, these effects can occur during the pregnancy as well.
‘The blues’, also known as ‘baby blues’, occur in 70% of mothers. This is by far the most common condition. This is also a temporary condition. While the baby blues can cause anxiety, excessive worrying and crying episodes, these last only about 2-3 days. This condition can also be detected quite easily. Treatment for this can include anxiety medication.
Depression, however, is a much more serious issue. Studies show that Depression occurs in only 10% of mothers and lasts much longer. This condition has the potential to last 2-8 weeks. The symptoms are mostly the same as the blues, but in this case, they can be much more severe and much harder to detect. To treat such a condition, doctors recommend medication and therapy. However, it is important that the mother be monitored early on so that relatives or doctors can detect these situations.
Psychosis is a rarer condition. Occurring only in 1 in 500 mothers, psychosis is classified as an abnormal condition. In this case, the mother may go beyond depression and change her perception of her own child. These types of conditions can cause a mother to go into a manic state and put her child and herself at risk. Treatments for this can include electro-convulsive therapy.
While the baby blues may not affect the newborn that much, depression and psychosis can paint a different picture. Mothers suffering from depression and psychosis have been shown to neglect their child’s nutritional needs, harm them physically or sometimes even kill the child.
The most important thing we have to do is observe. Observe the mother during and after the pregnancy. This is important because the sooner the doctors are notified, more efficiently they can treat the mother and not let the symptoms develop.
This is an onus that is placed on the mother’s support group. This generally includes her family and friends. Monitoring and supporting the new mother can help greatly improve her condition and will help caretakers to detect any abnormal moods or behaviour of the mother. A mother’s conditions, how they develop and how they are treated, depend a lot on how their support groups care for her.
In a country like Sri Lanka, the concept of a support group is extremely important since, even today, many people are rooted in outdated beliefs that usually involve ostracising mothers who show such conditions. This generally boils down to people’s lack of awareness and the social stigma surrounding these nuanced issues.
However, campaigns are being carried out to educate people and spread awareness, especially in rural areas. Government institutions are working towards minimising this stigma and promoting the concept of support groups to monitor and tend to new mothers.
This task is also on all our shoulders. Even though Sri Lanka’s overall suicide rates have been falling, the rate of maternal suicides have been rising. Mental illness should not be stigmatised, and it can happen to anyone. As such, we must strive to normalise these issues and be as aware as possible.