Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMD) affects up to 1 in 5 women globally during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth.
Health professionals and advocates have shed light on Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMD), a common mental health issue that affects many new mothers, to mark this year’s World Maternal Mental Health Day.
“For our mothers struggling with their mental and emotional health, I would say mental illness is not a crime; please don’t hide, speak up, and access available help,” Dr. Zainab Imam, acting Division Chief of Women’s Mental Health at Sidra Medicine told local press The peninsula.
PMD includes a range of mental health disorders that can occur during pregnancy or after giving birth. Symptoms can include extreme sadness, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty sleeping or bonding with the baby.
This year’s theme is ‘Stronger Together,” which experts say is a call to recognise that maternal mental care is a collaborative effort and seeking treatment is crucial for both the mother’s and baby’s well-being.
How to seek treatment in Qatar
In Qatar, there are services dedicated to the care of women during pregnancy and after childbirth, including effective medication for PMD and various forms of therapy to assist women in recovery, Imam added.
In 2017, Sidra Medicine launched Qatar’s inaugural Women’s Mental Health Division which offers specialised perinatal mental health services. The team consists of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, and midwives, with additional support from social workers, obstetricians, and NICU consultants.
However, many women do not seek treatment due to the stigma surrounding mental health issues, lack of access to care, or fear of judgment from healthcare providers.
Research shows that mothers who experience PMD often struggle with feelings of guilt or shame, as they may feel like they are not living up to societal expectations of being a “perfect” mother.
Iman emphasised that the success of providing mental healthcare for mothers and their infants requires everyone’s support, from executives who fund it, to physicians who identify and refer patients, to mental healthcare professionals who provide compassionate care, and families who help access necessary care.
“For husbands and family members of women who are struggling, please show them love and compassion, help and support them with childcare and household chores, but more importantly, support them in accessing available help. If required, it is okay to take medications — please do not discourage them,” she added.
Treatment options can include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. It is also important to prioritise self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and asking for help when needed.
However, more research is needed to understand maternal health diagnosis and care, Iman added.
“There is still a lot to learn about mental health in general and that of mothers in particular. We now know that pregnancy and childbirth can trigger the emergence of mental illness and it can exacerbate preexisting mental health conditions.
“Knowing what to expect and managing expectations of motherhood is critical in order to adopt a more realistic and balanced view of motherhood,” she said.