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AFRA AMIR (#afra_writes)

The World Health Organization defines maternal mental health as “a state of well-being in which a mother realizes her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her community”

Maternal mental health challenges are considered to be rare but recent studies show that they are not. These challenges occur during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. More than 1 in every 10 woman faces this challenge as per researches. If these are left undiagnosed, it can be devastating for all concerned, especially to the mother and the newborn. If you ask me whether maternal mental health matters or not, yes of course it matters.

Mothers with these challenges usually present with low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, inability to look after newborns and poor concentration – symptoms that profoundly affect maternal functioning and her role.

The mental health of a pregnant woman is equally important as her physical health. It is said that a healthy body and a healthy mind will together make a happy human. But many people don’t realize this fact. In many cultures, postpartum physical care is taken proficiently but completely flouting the mental state of that woman. Also, the stigma towards mental health issues and postpartum depression is so serious that a woman herself is not willing to discuss the fact that she is dealing with some mental health issues with any family member or anyone in her social circle.

This is the time when she actually needs help or support from family and friends or people around her. The whole body of a woman will undergo several changes during pregnancy and childbirth. Then marks the onset of sleeplessness and constant attention demands by the child. As you say, “once a mother always a mother”. So a woman takes time to cope up with all these factors and hence a certain amount of struggle will be there with her during the journey.

People need to be aware that there is nothing wrong with feeling anxious or depressed during pregnancy and after childbirth. There are several things which family members especially spouse and parents can do to help her cope with the situation. Talking to her and acknowledging her feelings is one such thing. Giving her assurance that whenever she needs help her family will be there will be a great relief for the sufferer. This will make the woman more comfortable that if she needs to share about any mental health issues, she won’t hesitate at all.

In order to change the world one needs to change themselves first. Only personal transformation can lead to social transformation. First of all, one needs to accept the fact that she is going through some emotional distress, or rather her mental health is being challenged. The woman should realize that this is something that is happening as real. Acceptance will definitely lead her to seek help or guidance. So one should “speak out and seek help”.

Seeking professional help from mental health experts helps a lot of people in such situations. These things can help to ease the difficulty to a certain level. If not diagnosed at the right time and not treated properly, it might get worse for the mother and newborn.

As fellow human beings, we can do many things as well. Why don’t we start to listen to them, why don’t we start asking them how they have been and how did they manage so far. Tell them how great they are doing. Let’s talk about maternal mental health to them, because maternal mental health matters!

We all have mental health. Many of us might face mental health challenges at some or the other point in our life. So we should value our mental wellness more than anything else as if we don’t have the former, then we won’t be able to appreciate the value of anything that we acquired.

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