There's no doubt that the world has evolved socially over the past few decades. The past twenty years or so have seen a genuine revolution in public perception of mental health, particularly psychological well-being during pregnancy. While women used to feel that admitting to depression was a sign of weakness, nowadays more and more women are opening up about their mental health, and there are still more on the rise.
Mental-health support is still needed on a larger scale for pregnant people. When a mother deals with depression or anxiety during pregnancy, it can affect the child’s neurological development. This can lead to a higher risk of mental illness in the child later in life.
A referral system within the medical community for expecting parents that need mental-health support would be a step in the right direction.
This is not to say that the entire medical community is without blame. More often than not, mothers are treated as vessels for their babies. Their bodies and minds are not prioritized during their pregnancy, which leads many women to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety — and potentially PTSD if they had traumatic childbirth experiences.
A recent article in The Economist noted that "depression is common and often untreated in women, who are twice as likely to be depressed as men." This statement remains true for pregnant individuals. In fact, research shows that 20 percent of pregnant individuals experience depression before, during, or after pregnancy. But unlike physical health concerns, mental health issues are not always addressed with the same urgency.
How Women Have Managed
Hormonal changes, financial difficulties, relationship problems, uncertainty about the future, and numerous other circumstances can cause stress, anxiety, or depression for a pregnant person. Support and help with processing these emotions are important for expecting parents. Unfortunately, a number of barriers hinder adequate mental health care.
Many people do not receive quality mental health care because they cannot afford it or have no access to it. Even when they do have access to care, they may still not receive it due to the stigma around mental illness that persists today. For more information on this topic see our post on the stigma surrounding mental illness in America. Additionally, many women are hesitant to seek treatment out of fear that they will be judged negatively by their providers or others in their social circles.
While many people have overcome these challenges and sought the help they need during pregnancy.
Treating these issues has benefits for both mother and child. Prenatal depression and anxiety can affect a woman’s ability to care for herself and her unborn baby, which is why it’s important to treat prenatal depression and anxiety.
However, many mothers do not seek help for their symptoms. Pregnant women are often resistant to seeking out mental health counseling or medication because they fear it will harm their developing baby.
There is no scientific evidence that supports this fear. In fact, some studies have shown that untreated prenatal depression may be more of a risk than treatment in the form of therapy or medication.
This is why it’s so important for pregnant women to prioritize their mental health, and to seek out help if they are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression.