What is Perinatal Mental Illness?

What is Perinatal Mental Illness?

Today is the first day of Maternal Mental Health Week in the UK and the beginning of a series of posts discussing perinatal mental illness here at Blossom & Cave.

What is Maternal Mental Health Week?

A week-long campaign dedicated to talking about mental illness during pregnancy or after having a baby and signposting to support for all mums. The focus is on advocating for mums affected by maternal mental health and helping them to access the information and help they need to enable recovery.

This year’s theme for the third annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Awareness Week is Mums Matter.

What is perinatal mental illness?

Perinatal mental illness is the umbrella term for a number of mood disorders that occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. There are a number of recognised mood disorders such as:

  • Pre/postnatal depression
  • Pre/postnatal anxiety
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Birth trauma/post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Postnatal psychosis

How can I tell if I have a perinatal mental illness?

It can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of mental ill-health in pregnancy and post-birth. Many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression, the most common mood disorder, are also common symptoms of exhaustion and stress that many new parents go through. However, if you find that you are struggling with your mood for longer than around two weeks it may be time to seek help.

If you have any concerns at all about your mental health, please speak to a health professional or a trusted friend. The sooner you speak up, the easier it is to get treatment and begin recovery.

Postnatal psychosis is classed as a medical emergency. It is very rare (only 1 in 1000 births) however, it can be life-threatening. Symptoms can include seeing and hearing things that aren’t there, holding beliefs such as “I can control the weather” and acting out of character. It is vital to seek emergency medical assistance for psychosis.

I’m struggling with my mental health. What can I do?

First of all, know that you are not alone. Women and men all over the world struggle with mental illness when they become parents and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

First of all, speak to your health provider and explain how you feel. They can guide you on treatment.

Find a support group or a friend who understands how you are feeling and talk it out. Voicing your concerns can often make them less frightening.

Visit www.wearepangs.com for a range of self-help resources, tools and blog posts which you may find helpful.

You will get better.

Perinatal mental illness is 100% treatable with the right resources and support. I have been in the depths of mental illness throughout three pregnancies and at one time I thought I would never feel anything other than despair ever again. Yet, here I am recovered, happy and living a fulfilling life.

If you are struggling, please know that it does get better. Don’t give up. Keep fighting for yourself because you deserve to be happy and fulfilled too.


Michelle x

Michelle is the author of Pangs: Surviving Motherhood and Mental Illness, a book which outlines her journey through perinatal mental illness and also includes a self-help guide and list of resources to help others with their recovery. You can buy the book here or on Amazon.


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