Postnatal mental health conditions

For lots of reasons, the journey into parenthood can bring joy and fulfilment, along with stress and upheaval.  It can be an emotional time for everyone as you constantly try to adapt to the needs of your new expanding family.  Sometimes it can be difficult to know when things have crossed the line, and what we think is stress may be signs of postnatal mental health conditions in early parenthood like depression, anxiety or other mental health problems.

my husband would come home and I would still be in wandering around in my nightie – we got a nanny and I still couldn’t get anything done – it was all too hard to face.

We know that these mental health conditions are most commonly experienced in the months following a baby. In fact women are more likely to develop mental health problems at this time more than at any other stage of their life.  Men are also at risk of developing mental health problems, particularly if their partner is suffering.

There are a number of factors that are known to increase a person’s risk of experiencing mental health problems at this time, these include:

  • a personal or family history of mental health problems
  • increased current life stresses (for example special care needs of infant, moving house)
  • lacking practical, social and or emotional support
  • current drug and/or alcohol problems
  • history of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional)
  • having an anxious or perfectionist personality.

As these are known risk factors, your health professional may ask you about these factors as a routine part of your care.

In addition to knowing what may place a person at greater risk, it can also be very useful to be familiar with the different types of mental health conditions that can occur.  As described in the following sections there are a range of different symptoms that can develop.

Managing stress and parenthood is difficult enough without also battling with a mental health condition. By being aware and informed about these conditions and knowing what to look for, you will be best placed to seek help early. The faster you seek help the faster you can recover and get on top of things – so they don’t get on top of you.

 

See also…

Postnatal anxiety

Postnatal depression

Bipolar disorder in the postnatal period

Postnatal psychosis

Help for postnatal mental health conditions