WHILE most people are aware of the terms Baby Blues, and indeed it’s more severe form, Post-Partum Depression, it seems that mental health issues during pregnancy itself may be less well known.

A recently published study, headed by Professor Louise Howard of King’s College Hospital looked at just under 550 pregnant women who received antenatal care in London between 2014 and 2016, and identified a mental health issue in a quarter of those surveyed.

These were not limited to anxiety and depression, with eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders (OCD) also seen in some patients.

Loading article content

This backs up research in the Lancet last year demonstrating that double the number of women commit suicide during pregnancy and shortly thereafter as compared to those who were not in this period when they took their own life.

Although this may seem upsetting and certainly challenges the notion of pregnancy as being a time of great joy, carrying an unborn child is not without its drawbacks.

With hormonal surges, your body no longer being your own, and the common and often horrendous side effects of morning sickness, heartburn and backache, to name a few, there are certainly many difficult times along this journey.

The research confirmed that women who were younger, single, less financially well off and with a lower level of education and reduced support were more likely to suffer mental health issues.

However, I would argue it could happen to any expecting mother, irrespective of her status.

THE problem of identifying mood disorders during pregnancy is also linked to the assumption by some would be mothers that they must feel happy during this time, or worse, that by admitting to an issue they have in some way failed, or may be flagged up to social services, with any older siblings being taken into care. Neither of these are true.

Identifying and treating mood disorders in pregnancy relies on would-be mothers and the healthcare professionals they encounter during this time working hand in hand.

We have known for a long time that enquiring about mood problems or indeed risk of suicide is not detrimental, and often allows the sufferer a perfect opening to admit that they are struggling and would benefit from help.

Being asked about self-harm has not been shown to either put the idea into a person’s head, nor to make them more likely to carry out such an act.

The risks of untreated mental health disorders in pregnancy sadly do not end with delivery, and have even been linked to issues with the child themselves as far as adolescence and even beyond.

Asking for help is vital. Treatment often starts with intensive counselling and indeed may require medication.

Although there is concern over the small potential risk to the unborn child with some drugs, this is more than outweighed by the consequences of allowing a mother to suffer in silence.