Trigger Warning: This story does contain mention of miscarriage and baby loss.
Kings College London have released shocking new figures that one in four women suffer from mental health during their pregnancy. 11% of women had depression, 15% have anxiety, 2% have eating disorders, 2% have obsessive-compulsive disorder and just under 1% have PTSD. Another condition which was less common is bipolar.
Postnatal depression has been the talking point in the last five years, with many celebrities such as Stacey Solomon and Courtney Cox opening up about their struggles. Perinatal Mental Health is when expecting Mums struggle with their mental health during their pregnancy. Melanie is currently dealing with Perinatal Mental Health.
What is Perinatal Mental Health?
Perinatal is based on the time around your pregnancy. “Peri” means around the birth and “natal” is after the birth. This is a complete Perinatal mental health is more common with women who have a history of mental health before their pregnancy. Pregnancy is already a stressful time with concerns of something going wrong before the baby is born.
Mental health can make expecting mums to be feel like they can’t confide in anyone in case they are judged or accused of being a bad mother. These nine months cause expecting parents to feel scared, even if you have had a child before, your mental health can decline very quickly. Women who suffer from Perinatal worry constantly about the duration of their pregnancy and the birth. This can be due to past traumatic experiences such as previous sexual abuse. During their pregnancy, many family and friends ask if they are excited and happy about the new arrival but sometimes expecting mothers don’t feel this way. This leads them to feel confused and feel like something is wrong with them.
On a cold windy morning, I visit Melanie* at her house, she is currently seven months pregnant and expecting her first child. Melanie* has multiple mental health conditions including Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, ADHD and Asperses. She also has Fibromyalgia, and is struggling with her chronic pain during her pregnancy.
” It was difficult before (I fell pregnant) and I thought it can’t get any worse. But now I’m pregnant with all the extra weight and fluid for the baby it has really taken it’s toll. I feel like there are knifes literally jabbed into my joints. I get a lot of lower bump pain, apparently you carry boys lower than you carry girls. So he’s quite low and he’s causing me a ton of bump pain underneath”
Melanie* has struggled with her mental health since she 14, and has been trying for a baby for nearly a year. Sadly, she has had four miscarriages, three of them happened during this year. Her mental health went downhill as she suffered her miscarriages. All through this pregnancy she was on high alert as she was concerned she would lose her baby.
“I felt so relieved (when I found out I was pregnant), super excited. And then it kind of went on to oh god this is happening. We were trying for 5 months before this actually happened. We ended up losing three children this year. I don’t want to get my hopes up”
Failure by the NHS
Melanie* has felt let down by the NHS since she was a child. She told myself that she feels like they haven’t been there to support her, with her mental health during her pregnancy. She isn’t alone, the Care Quality Commission, have released a NHS patient survey 2017 of women’s experiences of maternity care. 50% of mothers were concerned about their emotional and mental wellbeing as they haven’t been able to see a midwife. 13% of women felt that during their pregnancy their midwife’s aren’t asking how they are feeling in themselves mentally. This has increased by 3% since 2010.
“To be honest I have kept a lot from them as I have been paranoid as I had social services involved with myself when I was younger. It wasn’t anything to do with my mum, it was all because of me and how I wasn’t coping but they loved to pinpoint my Mum to say you’re a single Mum and it’s your fault that she’s like this.”
Mel was concerned though that somehow the NHS has on her maternity records that she is a high priority because she has an eating disorder. She told me that she never had told the hospital that she had an eating disorder. The hospital stated that they never looked at her mental health records.
The NHS announced in February that extra funding would be made available to help improve the mental health of at least 3,000 pregnant women and those who have recently given birth. This £23 million pound project will see more pregnant women getting face to face consultations and skype calls. Perinatal mental ill health affects up to 20 per cent of women during pregnancy. Also it can affect them during their first year after giving birth.
Claire Murdoch, director of mental health for NHS England has said: “Falling pregnant and becoming a mum is a hugely emotional experience, so having expert support available, including working with people’s partners as well as their wider family and social networks, to help manage the upheaval, means that women who are experiencing mental health issues don’t have to suffer and struggle alone.”
Perinatal Mental Health is just important as postnatal depression. Women who suffer with mental health conditions during their pregnancy need extra support. Mums have asked for more support to be available to help Perinatal mental health. Melanie has had four miscarriages and suffers from many mental health conditions that can get worse by pregnancy. The main issue is that pregnancy symptoms are very similar to Perinatal so it’s hard to spot and diagnosed. If you’re struggling at all during your pregnancy, please speak to your midwife or doctor. There is always somebody who will listen.
*Due to anonymity, some names have been changed
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