Maternal mental health: 'It's a sign of strength to ask for help'

A perinatal psychiatrist tells us why mental health before and after pregnancy is so important

by Wellbeing of Women | 10th Jun 2020

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Please note: This is a past event

Dr Roch Cantwell has been a psychiatrist for 30 years and a perinatal psychiatrist – someone who treats mental health problems in women during and shortly after pregnancy – for 15 years.

Ahead of Wellbeing of Women’s Maternal Mental Health webinar on Tuesday 16th June, we asked speaker Dr Cantwell why maternal mental health is so important and what to expect at the virtual event.

What is perinatal psychiatry?

Perinatal psychiatry is treating mental illness in women who are pregnant, or who’ve had babies in the past year.

For a number of women, this can be a riskier time for developing mental ill health – and, for some women who’ve already had mental health problems, having a baby and being pregnant can sometimes be an extra challenge for them.

That’s why there are these services dedicated to helping women, their infants and their families.

Why is it important we talk about maternal mental health?

Some women are afraid to come forward, feel like they should cope on their own or that people are going to judge them as a mother if they ask for help.

Actually, recognising that you need a bit of help is a really normal and healthy thing. It’s important to de-stigmatise mental health and to say “actually, lots of people have this problem – it’s okay for me to say I have it too”.

Why is maternal mental health particularly important right now?

Becoming a new mother or father is one of the most exciting, but also potentially challenging, times of your lives. You really want to have family around but during the pandemic we’re that much bit more distanced from each other.

Even if you can’t have somebody physically in the room with you, stay in touch with people and don’t allow yourself to get isolated.

Draw on support from family and professionals and it’s important to get used to doing things like this webinar.

Why should women and their families attend the event?

While a webinar can’t replace antenatal classes, they’re another source of information, a chance to share your story and to find out that many other people are going through similar things.

It’s important to find out about signs and symptoms of less common conditions, to so that you know when you need that extra bit of help. It's a sign of strength to ask for help, not a sign of weakness.