Maternal mental health was not always on the radar of things to address for many behavioral health providers in our nation. In 2020, the world view has shifted, and the mental health of mothers (and parents in general) is increasingly important to the behavioral health community. More and more providers are exploring mental health disorders in women who are pregnant, are new mothers, or are experienced mothers and how their mental health impacts that of their children. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression, leading to an inability to properly function and impacting the growth and development of their children. Below are some of the common types and causes of Maternal Mental Health Disorders and how managing one or more of those disorders can impact a child.
Common Types of Maternal Mental Health Disorders
1) Depression /Postpartum Depression
Depression is the most common maternal mental health issue experienced by mothers across the globe. While many mothers experience varying types of depression in their lives, the number one most experienced form is postpartum depression. Up to 80% of women will experience postpartum depression to some degree after childbirth. Symptoms of this maternal mental health disorder include weepiness, impatience, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, insomnia, sadness, intrusive thoughts, or the inability to stay focused.
2) Anxiety Disorder
Another common paternal and maternal mental health issue experienced by parents are anxiety disorders. This is often experienced as intense/excessive worry and fear about everyday situations. Some mothers experience this due to fear of harm coming to their children or for other reasons outside of motherhood. Regardless of the reason, increased anxiety can impact a parent’s decision-making and the ability to assess certain situations as well as other processes when raising a child.
3) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is categorized as a pattern of unwanted thoughts, fears, and obsessions that lead an individual to experience certain compulsions that interfere with daily life and are often exacerbated by increased stress levels. For a parent that is now responsible for a helpless child, the obsessive-compulsive disorder can be experienced as a result and desire to keep harm away from the child. It could lead to incessant cleanliness habits, repetitive phrasing or actions, mental compulsions, and more.
Anther maternal mental health disorder that is common in the United States is Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD can be brought on from several experiences but is most commonly experienced by mothers who went through a traumatic child-birthing process. Otherwise known as birth-trauma, this form of PTSD is often a result of fear experienced during childbirth that harm is going to come to you or your child, or the realization of those fears (high-risk births).
The Impact of Paternal and Maternal Mental Health on Children
During the formative years of a child’s life, the mental health of a mother or parent has a huge impact on the child’s behavioral and mental health. A parent who is managing some type of paternal or maternal mental health disorder can sometimes have a decreased ability to manage, respond, and react to their child in a way that promotes stability, growth, and development. Left unaddressed, paternal/maternal mental health disorders can become dangerous, impacting the child.
Untreated paternal or maternal mental health can have several significant impacts on the emotional and behavioral health of a child, such as:
- Decreased Social Functioning
- Lowered Academic Performance
- Childhood/Adolescent Mental Health Disorders
- Increase Risk of Substance Abuse
Seeking treatment for your paternal or maternal mental health disorder(s) is essential to decreasing the risk that your child experiences any of these consequences. If you believe you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental health disorder, you should consult with a behavioral health provider. To learn more about a provider near you, click here to begin your search.
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