The perinatal period, from conception to 4 years postpartum, is the highest risk time in any woman’s life for the onset of a mental health disorder. Which is hardly surprising given what is going on biologically, psychologically and socially over this period. Not since adolescence, do women experience such upheaval – and we all know how challenging it can be to be a teenager.
All women want to provide the perfect growing environment for their baby, they realise the stakes are high and are willing to go to tremendous lengths to follow all the rules. For some, due to no fault of their own, there is a medical disorder, that gets in the way of providing the ‘perfect’ incubator.
Depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders are ultimately medical disorders – they impact on the way the brain, and the body functions. For the baby, developing inside this body, the symptoms of mental health disorder are now being understood as potentially impacting on the way that baby is taking shape.
So where does this leave pregnant women with mental health symptoms? Mostly feeling guilty and frustrated with the fact they can’t have the pregnancy they want and can’t provide the environment they want for their baby. For many medication is a good option, but then they feel damned if they do and damned if they don’t take medication.
But, of course, medication is not the only course of action. Talking therapy is effective and potentially curative – especially if delivered by a perinatal and infant mental health expert.
The nine months it takes to make a baby, is by no means the end of the road. So much development, particularly brain development, occurs in the first three to five years. This gives ample opportunity for mums, and dads, to optimize the environment that their baby’s brain grows in.
So even if there are symptoms of anxiety and depression in pregnancy it is not the end of the story – but having effective treatment not only minimizes the impact on the developing baby in utero, but will allow these mums to be ready to meet their baby and enjoy their baby.
Because, after all, it is the relationship between parents and their children that provides the wiring for the rest of that child’s life