The mental health impact of pregnancy doesn’t just come up once the baby’s born.
A new UK study from King’s College London has revealed that a quarter of all pregnant women suffer from mental health problems during pregnancy.
Researchers recruited 545 pregnant women attending their ante-natal booking appointment at a maternity service in south-east London between November 2014 and June 2016.
Midwives asked these women two questions about their mood. It’s a method as effective in identifying mental health issues as the 10-point questionnaire patients had to complete by themselves.
They found that one in four women had mental health issues during pregnancy. 11% had depression, 15% had anxiety, 2% had eating disorders, and 2% had obsessive-compulsive disorders. Many women had a combination of multiple issues.
Researchers believe signs of mental distress are often missed because there’s an assumption that women feel glorious while they’re pregnant. The assumption is that women are all glowy and full of life.
‘It’s a time of lots of changes,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Camilla Rosan of the Mental Health Foundation.
‘There is a major renegotiation of a woman’s identity, anxiety about what kind of mother she might be.
‘It sometimes reactivates problems from her own childhood. These are all potential triggers – and old traumas and pre-existing problems can return.’
Pregnancy can be a time of vulnerability and physical trauma. The effects of mental health issues during this time can be long-lasting – on both the mother and her child.
‘Studies show changes in stress hormones can have an impact on the development of the growing baby’, Dr Rosan says.
‘It can affect their later academic achievements and cause problems with the development of emotional relationships.’
It’s crucial for women to be given access to specialist maternal mental health services quickly when they need it.