Why is perinatal mental health important?
Pregnancy and the birth of a child is a time of joy for many women however it may also be a time of great stress. Many women will look back and acknowledge that with all the joy and wonder of bringing a new life into the world, there were also many challenges. A new baby brings about much change and with it there may be stressors such as reduced sleep, financial stress and changes in how roles are managed in the relationship with their partner and at work. Additionally, pregnancy and the postpartum period cause hormonal changes.
All of these changes may predispose women to developing mental illness. If women become mentally unwell this can influence how they bond with and care for their children if they are not given support and treatment when needed. Additionally, women who experience mental illness while pregnant or after the birth of their child may have added concerns regarding taking medication in case it affects them or the baby negatively or fear stigma from others if they speak out about their mental illness.
Women who are already on treatment for mental illness may also have concerns about falling pregnant or worry about the affect of medication on their baby versus the risk that they become mentally unwell if they stop medication during this period where they may be vulnerable to a relapse.
These concerns need to be spoken about on an individual basis with the treating psychiatrist as every person and their situation is different. Women with mental illness and their psychiatrists need to work together to find the best plan to manage their mental illness during this critical time.