Mental Health Issues Affect A Major Portion Of New Mothers In UK

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/11/17

A new survey revealed that postpartum depression is largely affecting new mothers and, to a much smaller degree, fathers in the UK.

mother holding newborn child

Postpartum mental health struggles are finally entering mainstream discussions, especially with celebrities like Ivanka Trump, Chrissy Teigen, and Adele opening up about their experiences with it.

The warning signs of postpartum depression, in particular, have been discussed widely and most practitioners discuss those signs at prenatal and postnatal appointments. But the BBC reports that suicide is the leading cause of maternal death in the United Kingdom.

According to the American Psychological Association, up to 1 in 7 women will experience symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD), and for half of those who do experience symptoms, it’s the first time they have ever struggled with depression. Symptoms of PPD can include irritability, fatigue, overwhelming sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and anhedonia, an inability to find pleasure in things you used to enjoy.

In a BBC Radio 5 and YouGov survey, one-third of mothers in the UK reported mental health challenges related to parenting, while only 17% of fathers did. "I'd get upset over something as simple as we'd ordered a takeaway and they'd forgotten the fried rice and I just couldn't stop crying," Lauren Doyle told the BBC.

And while PPD is most commonly diagnosed in women who have given birth, it can present in all kinds of parents—fathers, adoptive parents, and nonbiological mothers.

A 2014 study out of Northwestern University found that fathers who lived with their children showed a 68% increase in depressive symptoms during their child’s first five years of life. Research has also shown that mothers with PPD may be at high risk for postpartum substance misuse.

And depression isn’t the only mental health issue that new parents are at risk for. Postpartum anxiety and psychosis are also relatively common. According to Postpartum Support International, postpartum anxiety affects up to 10% of new moms. Symptoms can include racing thoughts and uncontrollable worry or panic.

"My anxiety level was overwhelming," Katie Kavulla told Parents. "I'd get hot and sweaty and irritable, and I turned into a late-night worrier. It was like there was a scrolling list of concerns going through my mind, and I had trouble sleeping. That wasn't like me."

Ultimately, postpartum mental illness may be underdiagnosed and underreported. Doctors say it’s important for new parents to be aware of the risk and to check in with their physician regarding their symptoms or concerns.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
britni headshot.png

Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.