Mental Health During Pregnancy
The journey of pregnancy is filled with many changes, and the mental health of pregnant women is often affected. The likelihood of developing mental health conditions increases with pregnancy, and Dr Mandana Master and Burnside Women’s Health team aim to support women through this life-changing period. It is important to acknowledge your feelings and experiences so you can receive the help you need. Our all-female team highly value mental health and well-being. It is not uncommon to face mental challenges during pregnancy. Rest assured that there are resources specifically tailored to meet individual and unique needs, and we are committed to ensuring that you receive the appropriate care and support.
Many emotions are often attributed to hormones or other general pregnancy changes. However, if you are consistently experiencing mental health-related symptoms, visit your GP and request a referral to a relevant health professional to journey towards better well-being.
Mental health illnesses can impact the healthy development and growth of your baby. Therefore, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible.
Antenatal depression is a relatively common mental condition, affecting one in ten pregnant women. While occasional sadness is a normal part of being human, ongoing negative feelings and a loss of pleasure and interest can indicate antenatal depression. Many pregnant women experience this illness in conjunction with antenatal anxiety.
Specifically, symptoms include:
- Feelings of numbness or lowness
- Feeling ‘nothing’
- Feeling angry, emotional, helpless, teary, irritable or resentful
- Reduced confidence, sense of worth and hope
- Sleep changes, either sleeping more or sleeping less
- Appetite changes, either eating more or eating less
- Reduced energy or interest
- Self-harm thoughts, or thoughts of harm towards your child(ren)
- Difficulties associated with concentrating, decision-making, and thinking clearly
- Feelings of isolation, disconnection and loneliness.
If you are experiencing antenatal depression, you have options. Treatment includes cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, or – in severe cases – electroconvulsive therapy. Visit a mental health professional for more information on these treatments, their procedures, and expected outcomes.
Antenatal anxiety is the most common mental health condition experienced during pregnancy, with approximately one in five women impacted by this illness. Many account anxiety symptoms to personality or normal feelings of worry associated with the pregnancy journey. However, if feelings of worry continuously affect your everyday life and well-being, you are likely experiencing antenatal anxiety.
There are numerous types of anxiety that manifest in different symptoms. However, women experiencing antenatal anxiety often express the following:
- Frequent worrying thoughts, specifically about your baby
- Restless feelings, irritability, and feeling ‘on edge’
- Muscle tenseness and tightness in the chest
- Panic attacks (a sudden, intense episode of fear or anxiety accompanied by physical symptoms, including a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, trembling and chest pain).
Mental health professionals offer various services to improve the well-being of women experiencing antenatal anxiety, including supportive counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy or medications.
This mental health illness, manifested in periods of feeling high and periods of feeling low, is less common than antenatal anxiety and depression but is experienced by 1-3% of pregnant women. Bipolar is often triggered by significant life changes, such as becoming a new parent, and the risk of developing this illness increases with a family or personal history of bipolar.
Different symptoms are associated with the high and low periods of bipolar. During the high – or mania – period, symptoms include:
- Increased energy
- Reduced sleep
- Reduced inhibition
- Increased sex drive, spending, and risky behaviour
- Racing speech and thoughts
- Grandiose delusions (i.e., thinking you are famous)
- Having hallucinations (hearing or seeing something not actually there)
- Paranoia (irrational beliefs of being threatened or in danger)
- Excessive worrying about pregnancy or motherhood.
During the low – or depressive – periods, individuals often experience the following symptoms:
- Reduced energy, interest and self-esteem
- Negative feelings and perspectives
- Sensitivity to criticism
- Lack of interest in spending time with family or friends
Treatment of bipolar disorder is provided by qualified mental health professionals. Medications called mood stabilisers are often prescribed. Visit your GP for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and benefit from these evidence-based treatments.
Women with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) during Pregnancy
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition characterised by patterns of unstable relationships, self-image and emotions. Approximately 3% of Australians are affected by this illness. Pregnancy can worsen BPD conditions, emphasising the need for symptom recognition and appropriate treatment.
BPD is marked by the following symptoms:
- Extreme, unstable emotions
- Unstable, intense relationships
- Focusing on avoiding abandonment
- Feeling empty
- Limited self-image and identity
- Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
- Intense, uncontrollable anger
- Feeling disconnected when experiencing stress.
During pregnancy, women with BPD should be treated by a multidisciplinary healthcare team, including family support services and therapists. Management options include dialectical behaviour therapy or other talking therapies.
Women with Schizophrenia during Pregnancy
Schizophrenia is a mental illness with varying severity, experienced by 1% of Australians. This mental condition can arise from a combination of genetic factors, stress, biochemical factors, and alcohol and drugs. If you have schizophrenia, you have an increased likelihood of relapse during pregnancy.
Symptoms of a schizophrenic episode include:
- Thought disorders
- Social withdrawal
- Reduced motivation
- Blunt emotional expression
- Reduced insight.
To effectively address your condition of schizophrenia during pregnancy, it is crucial to implement appropriate treatment options through a psychiatrist.
During pregnancy, it is common to experience mental health conditions – or increased severity of long-term illnesses – and services are available for support. If you have any mental health concerns throughout your pregnancy, visit your GP for a referral to a mental health professional.
Alternatively, Dr Mandana Master can provide relevant contacts to support your well-being. Contact Burnside Women’s Health at (08) 8364 3642 today to learn more about supporting health throughout pregnancy.