Pregnancy can bring along feelings of joy and excitement to some people, while to others it can be an event associated with mixed or negative feelings. While some women have a good mental health during pregnancy, others may develop mental illness during pregnancy or relapse after existing mental disorder. Unfortunately, pregnancy does not protect women from mental illness.
This pamphlet was developed for all women with mental health problems prior or during pregnancy and their partners and/ or family and/ or friends.
The risk of developing a mental illness is the same during pregnancy as any other times. However, depression and anxiety remain on the top most occurring mental illnesses during pregnancy, affecting 10-15 out of 100 women.
1. How do mental disorders during pregnancy feel like?
The symptoms of a mental disorder during pregnancy are the same as other times, except that the symptoms may be more focused on the pregnancy.
Here are some of the common issues many women worry about during pregnancy:
- Change in role (quitting work, becoming a parent)
- Changes in relationships
- Being a good parent
- Fear of childbirth
- Fear of medical problems during pregnancy or with the baby
- Lack of support
To a certain level, these concerns are reasonable. However, when they take the form of mental illness, for example exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, the pregnant woman should seek help.
2. Why do some women have mental disorders during pregnancy?
Mental health during pregnancy is affected by:
- The type of pre-existing mental illness a woman had before pregnancy
- Whether she is on treatment
- Recent stressors (job loss, death of a loved one, end of relationship…)
- How she feels about the pregnancy
Even if a pregnant woman who suffers any psychiatric illness is feeling well, she should consult regularly with her mental health providers. There is a high risk of relapse after childbirth, and therefore, there needs to be a care plan of treatment choices ready for implementation ahead of time.
3. What are the treatment modalities available for pregnant women at LWHCC?
Treatment of mental illness during pregnancy depends of the type and severity of the illness.
- Medications; if possible, try to discuss your treatment with your psychiatrist before becoming pregnant. However, since most pregnancies are not planned, your psychiatrist will provide you with all the necessary information and the safest treatments for you and your baby. You may choose to continue or stop the treatment, yet sudden stopping of the treatment may cause quicker relapse.
Some medications are safe to use during pregnancy. According to research, lack of treatment of mental illness during pregnancy may have more debilitating effects on the unborn baby than the medication itself. It is best to consult with your psychiatrist to weigh the risks vs. benefits of treatment during pregnancy.
- Psychotherapy or counselling : talking is very important in the course of mental illness treatment, and to some women, it may replace medications, while others need it along with medications. Moreover, counselling will provide support and help you perceive your stressors more positively and cope with them.
Which treatment modality is better for me?
At LWHCC, we will provide you with free triage service with a professional mental health nurse who will carry on a brief mental health assessment, either over the phone or during a face-to-face interview, and guide you to the appropriate service based on your mental health status and individual needs.
4. What can you do to help yourself?
- It would be helpful if you share your mental health status with your close ones (partner, family, close friends) and let them know what symptoms to look for in case you become unwell, and whom to contact in this case. They may help by supporting you emotionally and practically (cooking, shopping, cleaning…)
- Tell you gynecologist about your mental health status and if you’re taking any medications
- Try to join antenatal classes or any other support groups
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
- Avoid alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Find some time to do something you enjoy at least once a week
- Get enough sleep
5. What can you do to help a close one who has depression?
- Do not be shocked or disappointed at your relative/ spouse. A mental disorder is not her fault and it is treatable
- Listen; even if you have to listen to the same thing over and over, and try not to give advice unless asked for
- It is helpful to spend time with this person and encourage her to talk; you may reassure her that she will get better
- Help her with practical activities; cooking, cleaning, shopping…
- Make sure that this person is eating and sleeping well as much as possible
- Help her stay away from alcohol/drugs
- If she starts talking about ideas of not wanting to live, or expresses weird thoughts, take it seriously and make sure she tells her psychiatrist
- Encourage her to get help. Do not discourage psychotherapy or taking medication if it is prescribed. If you have worries or concerns about your close one’s treatment, do not hesitate to discuss them with her medical team.
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