April 30, 2019
The Problem With Downplaying Mental Health Symptoms in Pregnancy & Postpartum
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Everybody has a bad day here and there -- the kind of day where nothing seems to go right, where everything feels out of whack. It's easy to dismiss those times as "just a bad day."
But what happens when the bad days keep coming? Do you find yourself saying
"I'm just having a bad day" more often than not? Are you having trouble finding "good days?" If you answered yes to either of those questions, you may be downplaying or dismissing symptoms of a mental health disorder. Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day -- a day to let everyone you love know that mental health is critical -- and treatable.
Depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and psychosis are all types of mental health illnesses that can happen before and during pregnancy, as well as in the first year postpartum (and beyond). It's common for people to downplay the symptoms of mental health during the childbearing years -- after all, it's supposed to be a "happy" time. In fact, it's estimated that up to 70% of people hide or downplay their symptoms during this time. (Source.) And that's a big problem. When you minimize symptoms, by definition, you make them small or unimportant, and if they're unimportant, there's no reason to get support or treatment.
The truth is, mental health is just like physical health. If you have a high fever and/or trouble breathing, you would seek medical attention. If you have recurring, troubling thoughts or feelings that won't go away and impact your everyday well being, it's equally important to get medical treatment.
Perinatal (around the time of birth) mood disorders, including anxiety and depression, are very common (1 in 5) and very treatable -- and they require treatment to go away. When not treated, mental health disorders can impact your ability to function, as well as impact the health, growth, and development of your child -- during pregnancy and childhood. The first step to getting help with your mental health is to recognize the symptoms. Symtoms of mental health issues include:
- Anger, sadness, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, trouble concentrating, thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or self
- Extreme worries and fears, often over the health and safety of baby, panic attacks, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, a feeling of losing control, and numbness and tingling
- Repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions), and sometimes need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts
- Flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event
- Bipolar mood disorder includes "low" phases and "high" phases. The low time is called depression and can appear as severe depression. The high time is called mania or hypomania and shows symptoms of euphoric, elevated, expansive or irritable mood with increased energy; racing thoughts; frenzied speech/speaking; decreased need for sleep; grandiose thoughts; restlessness; quickly changing topics in conversation to things that don't relate; impulsivity or poor judgement.
- Seeing and hearing voices or images that others can't -- hallucinations; believing things that aren't true and distrusting those around them; confusion and memory loss; seem manic. Immediate help and care is need immediately for these symptoms.
Once you recognize symptoms, seek out professional support. This includes an appointment or discussion with:
- Licensed mental health professional, including counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist
- Call in to the free PSI helpline: 1-800-944-4773 (or text: 503-894-9453)
- Family physician
On World Maternal Mental Health Day, help Lamaze spread the word -- mental health is critical, treatment is available! Please share this information with your family, friends, coworkers, and community.