Did you know that 1 in 4 women worldwide experiences post-partum depression? Did you also know that every second mother deals with emotional distress in the months right after childbirth? If you have never heard about the above statistics, there are no surprises. No one talks about maternal mental health. It’s almost a given that a mother is supposed to be “happy”, after the new baby’s arrival.
Talk to any new mother and they will tell you about the umpteen amount of advice and suggestions, even concern that they received from well-wishers during their entire pregnancy period about taking care of themselves and the baby, but once the baby comes, poof! who cares about the mother’s mental health?
Unfortunately, there is very little conversation about the emotional well-being of new mothers, and for that matter mothers in general. In my clinical experience of 9 years conducting psychotherapy sessions, with mothers of children from all age groups, and particularly new mothers, I have noticed a significant amount of distress regarding the lack of empathy that mothers face from well-meaning friends and family.
In our cultural context particularly, a mother is seen as the epitome of sacrifice and unconditional love. And while no one needs to teach a mother how to love, it can get overwhelming at times. Take it from a mother, that any form of support is welcome to support.
No mother is asking for anyone’s sympathy for their struggles in raising another human being; every generation has been there, but what mothers want is just an understanding of their emotional states, as they navigate the many roles that motherhood brings with it.
Why is it important that we encourage conversations around maternal mental health? Not only because an emotionally healthy mother ensures that her children are raised in an emotionally healthy manner, but also because mothers are also humans and often end up juggling the most difficult roles in the world, simultaneously.
There is enough evidence in research, to suggest the negative psycho-social & economic impact of taking a mother’s mental health for granted. We need to understand that a mother’s mental health is not mutually exclusive from the mental health and emotional well-being of the family, and for that matter of the society.
It is a very critically intertwined part of the ecology of every individual’s biosphere. Ignoring it for any longer than we already have, is likely to lead to even more severe mental health repercussions for the community than what we have with us, right now. And to put this last point in perspective, there are 44.9 million Indians who have been diagnosed with one or the other anxiety disorder, as per recent research published in the Lancet. Do we still want to ignore maternal mental health?
In the upcoming series, I will be talking about the different aspects of maternal mental health. The bulk of the series will focus on the mental health of new mothers, and building on that, we will also discuss aspects of mental health which concern the mothers of teenagers, and young adults. Let’s create a space for mothers to come forward and talk about their mental health.