Mental health issues in moms and in general is a topic often swept under the carpet in our Nigerian society and therefore does not get the adequate attention it requires. However, mental health is the foundation of an individual’s well-being.
With the spate of suicide, depression and drug abuse in our society, it is important that the conversations regarding mental health in Nigeria be deepened.
Mental ill-health can affect anyone, any day and given its effect on an individual’s productivity, family and society at large one can only wonder why adequate resources are not devoted to understanding and providing mental health services in Nigeria.
According to WHO;
Mental health is an essential component of health. it is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. By this definition, it means that mental health is critical to a person’s ability to operate, think, earn a living, interact with his environment and enjoy life.
An individual with sound mental health is in a state of well-being in which he or she realises their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to contribute to his or her community.
Becoming a mom can take a toll on a woman’s mental health; let’s not begin to talk about the drastic body changes and the added responsibility of being totally in charge and caring for another helpless human being, sometimes 2, 3,4 or even 5 and more. That’s a lot of helpless humans there. Coping with daily life can become hard, and ones self-confidence could plummet easily.
Approximately 68% of women with mental health concerns are mothers, with the most common issues being anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
So, How Can you Manage Mental Health Issues in Moms?
I believe the first step to managing mental health issues in moms is to know the signs of struggling with mental health issues. The more you know about the most common signs of mental health condition for new mums, the quicker you can get help and support.
Let’s begin with the first and most obvious mental health issues in moms:
Depression: The Most Common Mental health Issues in Mom
This is the most common amongst mental health issues in moms. This is when you feel low or unhappy for most or even all of the time. Sometimes, depression could happen at certain times of the day; like always feeling low in the evenings.
Tiredness amount to you always feeling exhausted even from doing next to nothing.
Do you easily get angry or irritated at every trivial thing? What would normally just annoy you leads you to lash out on your children, partner or whomever.
Sleeplessness and Changes in Sleep Pattern
Do you find it difficult to fall asleep? You lie in bed staring at the ceiling and turning in bed like ‘dodo’ being turned in hot oil. You may be worried about things while in bed and this prevents you from falling asleep.
Hopelessness: One of the Serious Mental health Issues in Moms
You have a feeling that things will not get better. Is life even worth living? This is a question you might begin to ask yourself.
This is way extreme. If you have a strong urge to harm yourself, seek urgent help maybe from a doctor or talk to family members about it.
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Symptoms include thumping heart, racing pulse, breathlessness, sweating, fear that something awful is about to happen.
You may be so worried and afraid to be left alone with your baby.
Let me tell you a little story about my experience with anxiety as a first-time mum.
The first day I was left alone with my first child, I cried. I felt like I could not take proper care of my baby and needed not to be left alone with him. I was still recovering from childbirth and its trauma.
My mom went out on that day.
I can’t remember exactly why she was out, but she was going to come back that same day. After crying, I consoled myself with the fact that things would only get better, because my baby will not remain this little forever and that the next time we would be left alone he would be much bigger and I would be stronger.
My recovery from the traumas of childbirth took a while in my first delivery. I would say up to two months physically and it took longer mentally. I remember then that I would be in bed sleeping and all of a sudden get startled by God knows what and my body would jerk.
Even while awake my body would jerk involuntarily. I really do not know what that was but, that never used to happen to me. However, it stopped after some months.
Managing Depression in New Moms
In my opinion, husbands/partners or family members have a strong role to play in helping new mums handle mental issues.
Unfortunately, husbands/ partner are mostly oblivious of the fact that their wives/ partners can pass through mental issues not to talk of knowing how to handle it.
Some mothers may avoid talking to their partners family or friends about their feelings because they worry that they’ll be judged for not coping or not being happy.
Even though new research is beginning to shed light that partners of new moms can also struggle emotionally and suffer mood disturbances after birth. They do not have the same hormonal influences as a new postpartum birth mom and as such are more likely to be more stable.
Husbands/partners/family should be on the lookout as soon as their wives/partners/sisters put to birth. Look out for signs of depression, anxiety, sad feelings and unhappiness, crying for no obvious reason.
Help her get through it, not by brushing those feelings aside, but acknowledging them and encouraging her to talk to you about them and her worries.
This way, you can reassure her that things will be fine and convince her that this is just a passing phase. Let her know that she is not alone. If you realise that her case might be more serious, take her to visit a doctor.
Believe me, when I say mental health issues in moms can be lonely emotionally, especially when every other person is happy and expects you to be in jubilation mood too, being that you just gave birth to a beautiful baby. However, here you are feeling all sorts of odd moods.
Nevertheless, if you are blessed with a partner that pays attention, listens and can reassure you that you both are in this feeling together including the provision of all necessary support as regards child care and chores, that would go a long way in helping to combat mental health issues in moms. Above all, the onus still lies on us to devise ways to make ourselves happy and mentally stable.