Category: Maternal Mental Health

Practical ways to get involved in Maternal Mental Health Awareness

maternal mental health matters

May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. All of this month, organizations all over the world join efforts in raising awareness on maternal mental health issues so that more women will get the treatment they need, and fewer will suffer in silence. This, according to the World Maternal Mental Health Day website is so that women living with perinatal mental health conditions can get the help they need.

This has, for the most part involved organizations sharing the activities they are involved in to help women with maternal mental illnesses.

PPDKenya engagement in the #MaternalMHMatters awareness campaign

  • On social media by sharing content that highlights maternal mental health issues under the hashtags #MaternalMHMatters and #PPDKenya (Follow us on our social media pages by clicking the tabs on the top right hand side of this page)
  • Sharing personal stories of Kenyan moms who have lived with a maternal mental illness, received help and made a recovery/are recovering. Read One Kenyan mom’s story on Postpartum Depression and getting treatment through PPDKEnya (link)
  • Through Elimisha Mama, PPDKenya’s flagship project that creates awareness through psychoeducative sessions at partnering hospitals. #ElimishaMama
  • Through a photo project in partnership with Kiarii Kimani Photography, dubbed Mother’s Mind. Mother’s Mind is a project that depicts the emotions that mothers with a mental illness go through, in a bid to reduce the stigma and discrimination that comes with maternal mental illness.

How can you get involved in the maternal mental health awareness at a personal level?

Statistics show that 1 in 5 women will experience a maternal mental illness at one point in their life. To put this in perspective, in any given chama of 20 women, 4 women are at risk of a maternal mental illness. How then, can individuals get involved in creating awareness on maternal mental health? Below are practical ways in which you can join the global drive to push for better maternal mental health care and combat stigma in the community.

Get information on maternal mental illnesses.

Reading about maternal mental health allows you to educate yourself on what the illnesses are, the symptoms and treatment options available. The PPDKenya website provides resourceful information on maternal mental health, and you can read more under the ‘Blog’ section.

It is also important to know places where you can get help. PPDKenya has created a database (that we are continually adding to, so if you are a mental health care provider, please get in touch and we will add you to the database) for mental health care providers in different parts of the country. This way, we are able to refer moms and make a follow-up to help in their recovery journey.

Read More: Postpartum Depression in new dads

Talk about maternal mental health

Ask the mothers in your networks how they are really feeling. It is not enough to ask – ask and mean it. This provides mothers who have a mental illness with the chance to open up and ask for help.

Create a non-judgemental space

The stigma and shame that is associated with maternal mental illness makes it difficult for moms to speak out. Creating a non-judgemental space means you need to listen and encourage her without making assumptions. Avoid using words like ‘crazy’ ‘bad mom’ or even ‘mad woman’.

Part of creating a safe space for a mom includes reminding her that she is not alone, that maternal mental illness is not her fault and that she can make a recovery with professional help. Make an effort to check in with her regularly.

Offer practical ways to help moms who are at risk of maternal mental illness

The first few days after birth can be overwhelming for new moms. Moms who do not have support or help at home are at risk of maternal mental illness. One of the ways you can help such a mom is to offer practical help. Clearing the sink, mopping the house, folding laundry or even just babysitting so that the new mother can have a long bath worry-free are some practical ways you can help such a mom to offer support.

Read More: Moms share 5 things they wish they knew about Postpartum Depression

Share your own story

Sharing personal stories on maternal mental health is also a powerful way of creating awareness on maternal mental health. For many women who have lived with a personal experience, the lingering thought of whether it is important is always present. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), sharing one’s experience with a maternal mental illness provides connectedness with others. It also reduces societal stigma by normalizing mental illness, both online and offline. It gives a voice for those who may not be able to speak about their experiences, and this goes a long way in creating social change.

#PPDMyStory

PPDKenya started a new series called #PPDMyStory where we are inviting Kenyan moms to share their stories on maternal mental illness, treatment and the journey to recovery. Are you interested in sharing your story (whether publicly or anonymously?) Drop us an email ppdkenya@gmail.com with the Subject heading PPDMyStory.

Other ways to get involved include volunteering with organizations that share on maternal mental health (we are looking for volunteers!), participating in maternal mental health forums and sharing resourceful information within our networks.

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World Maternal Mental Health Day 2019

World Maternal Mental Health Dy 2019

Today is World Maternal Mental Health Day 2019.

World Maternal Mental Health Day WMMHD is observed on the first Wednesday of May each year. The day has been in existence since 2016 when a group of maternal mental health advocates, persons with lived experience, mental health care professionals and even academicians came together to bring awareness to maternal mental health.

The main message around WMMHD is that Maternal Mental Health Matters. Everyone needs to know about maternal mental health, the signs and symptoms to look out for as well as where to get treatment and support.

Every year, organizations from all over the world join effort in creating awareness about maternal mental health. This is mainly done through localized events and a collective social media campaign under the #WMMHD and #MaternalMHMatters.

PPDKenya marking World Maternal Mental Health Day

Did you know that 1 in 5 new mothers will get a maternal mental illness? These conditions will often go untreated, largely due to lack of awareness and poor access to treatment and support. The truth is that Maternal Mental illness does not discriminate. Women, regardless of their age, socioeconomic status, religion, orientation and culture can get a maternal mental illness. Increasing this awareness goes a long way in helping affected women get the help they need.

As one of the global partners, Postpartum Depression Kenya is delighted to join the social media push to sensitize the community on maternal mental health and why it matters. By joining this campaign, PPDKenya contributes to the global effort to ensure that more women get professional medical help, and fewer suffer in silence.

How PPDKenya is getting involved

This year, PPDKenya is involved in a number of ways:

  • Through partnering with Weza Dada for the maternal mental health forum (happened on 27.04.2019) See more images here.
  • Through the Elimisha Mama Project at Akshar Healthcare Facility, read about it here.
  • Through a photography project that depicts what Postpartum Depression looks like.

Postpartum Depression is the most common childbirth complication

Postpartum Depression is the most common maternal mental illness, affecting 1 in every 7 new mothers. In Kenya and other low income countries, the rates are thought to be higher, largely due to low awareness and stigma associated with mental illness. In addition to this, mothers who experience gender-based violence, sexual abuse, lack of support (both from the family and the community) are at increased risk of maternal mental illness. Early intervention and treatment for these illnesses is key for both mother and child.

Read More: Can I get Postpartum Depression after the first year?

As we seek to raise awareness this month (and beyond), we are cognizant of the struggles that many Kenyan mothers face. The stigma associated with (maternal) mental illness makes it harder for affected mothers to speak out and get the help they need. For this year’s WMMHD, one of the ways PPDKenya is observing the day is through the use of photography.

The photo project is the brainchild of Postpartum Depression Kenya and Kiarii Kimani Photography. Kiarii Kimani is one of PPDKenya’s partners, and whose brilliant portfolio speaks for itself.

“Motherhood doesn’t come naturally to all women. For some it is a struggle especially because of their psychological make-up. I feel that my images can lend a voice to getting many women psychotherapy in this case dealing with PPD,” Kiarii says.

Kiarii Kimani is passionate about mental health, and through this photo project, helps to express what mothers with Postpartum Depression go through.

Read More: This is what it feels like to have Postpartum Depression

The Mother’s Mind Photo Project

Concept: Postpartum Depression Kenya

Photography: Kiarii Kimani Photography

Model: Lilian of Kathomi Photography

Location: Event Haven

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Postpartum PTSD: When moms experience trauma during childbirth

child birth experience

Every birth experience is unique. Many new moms look forward to the end of pregnancy and the beginning of a new journey as they enter motherhood. Some moms will, however, experience trauma during childbirth, sometimes leading to Postpartum PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

After delivery, many moms may feel fearful, disappointed and even angry that their birth experience did not go according to plan. There are many reasons why a birth experience may be difficult or traumatic. To understand this better, it is important to define what birth trauma is, and how it affects new moms.

What causes trauma during childbirth?

When Moms Experience Trauma during childbirth

Trauma is defined as the result of an extremely distressful event that interferes with an individual’s ability to cope with daily living. According to a 2013 News Release by WHO, trauma may result from experiencing violence, accidents, war and loss among others. WHO estimates that up to 3.6% of the global population has experienced PTSD in the years preceding this release (link).

Read More: When moms are unable to bond with their infants

Researchers define Trauma during childbirth as the perception of threatened or real injury or death to the mother and/or the baby. A different school of thought opines that childbirth trauma should only be defined by the women going through it.

A 2017 study conducted to explore the experiences of women who have had traumatic birth experiences indicated the following findings: Many of the responses included extremely severe physical pain, the lack of support, the lack or loss of control over the birth experience as well as fear for the baby’s health.

What then makes certain birth experiences difficult?

Some moms will experience births that look really difficult to the outsider, yet, the moms are able to process the experience and feel optimistic about it. Others on the other hand, present what looks like a perfect birth experience, and remain deeply distressed in the postpartum period. For a number of moms, the birth experience brings them close to death, and affects them for years to come.

Read More: 9 Myths About Postpartum Depression

To further understand these dynamics, it is important to define what constitutes a good or bad birth experience. Research provides four objective parameters for this:

  • The duration of labour
  • The use of medication to relieve pain
  • The type of delivery
  • Medical intervention

Sudden birth experience

These four parameters shed some light on trauma during childbirth. For instance, some moms experience early labour so that they feel that everything happened too fast. In such scenarios, there is the lingering thought that the birth process did not go to plan. One of our moms once reached out and shared how, despite having hoped and planned for a vaginal birth experience, her baby was not progressing as expected and she ended up getting a CSection. In her experience, everything was moving too fast and this proved to be traumatic.

“I feel like my body failed my baby,” she shared with us.

Too overwhelming

Some moms will feel so taken up by the whole process that they feel disconnected from what is happening (without the use of anaesthesia). One mom explained how the birth process felt like ‘an out of body experience’, like she was an outsider looking in and completely swept away by the procedures.

A matter of life and death

For moms whose birth experience is a medical emergency, there is always the risk of trauma. Whether it is failed anesthesia, baby developing complications and/or staying in NICU, or the mom experiencing heavy bleeding, an experience that places either mom or baby in danger can prove to be traumatic. This is also seen in moms who fear that their babies may die after birth.

Read More: #PostpartumDepression – The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

PS: This study also indicated that for many moms, a traumatic birth experience can be traced back to actions by health care providers. When a nurse is unkind, or breaks sad news without empathy, new moms tend to feel ignored and that their needs do not matter.

“In some cases, care providers used lies and threats to coerce women into complying with procedures. In particular, these lies and threats related to the wellbeing of the baby. Women also described actions that were abusive and violent. For some women, these actions triggered memories of sexual assault”

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2017)

As such, it is important to note the extent to which care providers can influence a woman’s experience of trauma during birth. Other risk factors for a traumatic birth experience include a history of mental illness, previous sexual abuse and trauma in previous births.

Postpartum PTSD is different from Postpartum Depression

Many moms will often confuse Postpartum PTSD with PPD, but the two maternal mental disorders are very different. Mothers with PPD will typically experience difficulty bonding with the baby, weepiness, loss of appetite, inability to enjoy activities they previously did, and in some cases, suicide ideation. Read more about the symptoms of PPD in this post.

In Postpartum PTSD however, moms experience the following symptoms:

  • Intrusive thoughts relating to the process of childbirth
  • Nightmares or flashbacks that are too real
  • Anxiety/ Panic attacks
  • The avoidance of things that relate to the specific birth experience such as details of the hospital and the thought of labour and birth
  • Inability to talk about the birth experience because it is painful and may lead to panic attacks

Postpartum PTSD is treatable, and if you think you may be suffering, it is important to get help. Postpartum PTSD arising from childbirth trauma is NOT your fault. Please get in touch with us and we will link you to professionals who can help.

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