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Thursday, 8 February 2024

Pregnancy is a joyous journey, but it's crucial to look beyond the anticipation of a new arrival and consider the mental health challenges that could come with it. While some new mothers experience what is known as the ‘baby blues’, one in seven women are at risk of developing post-partum depression – a more serious condition.

Head of Wellness & Lifestyle Management at the AfroCentric Group, Aimee Wesso-Roberts says the importance of building mental resilience among pregnant women cannot be overstated.

"While the joy of pregnancy is often celebrated, the mental health aspect can unravel after the baby arrives," notes Wesso-Roberts. "We are witnessing an increase in mental illness incidence, and we need to protect expectant mothers who are especially vulnerable. This begins with awareness and education.”

She says it is crucial to acknowledge that post-partum depression is a condition that requires attention. "Historically, it might have been accepted as a common state, affecting 10-15% of mothers, but increased awareness has revealed a potentially higher prevalence with more severe effects."

Baby blues vs post-partum

Wesso-Roberts believes the problem is that too many mothers and their families struggle to distinguish between 'baby blues' and post-partum depression.

Baby blues, characterised by mild feelings of anxiety or sadness shortly after birth, are common as mothers adjust to changes, heal, and cope with sleep deprivation. In contrast, post-partum depression is more severe and can persist for up to a year, impacting a mother's ability to care for herself and her baby.

Recognising and distinguishing between the baby blues and postpartum depression allows for timely and appropriate support, fostering the wellbeing of both the mother and the newborn.

"To address these challenges before they even appear, we recommend proactive measures" advises Wesso-Roberts. "It starts by identifying your family history. Those with a history of depression or anxiety should consult their treating doctor and raise a potential flag. This will enable early intervention if need be.”

Wesso-Roberts highlights several benefits that mothers can tap into, including digital support through various wellness apps. For instance, has partnered with Panda, amental health support app to give it’s Client Schemes access to mental health support. This app facilitates anonymous group sessions for mothers experiencing, amongst other mental illness symptoms, post-partum challenges, providing a supportive community.

Before the problem appears, Wesso-Roberts advises discussing the pros and cons with a doctor during pregnancy. She says watching out for cues such as social withdrawal and maintaining regular conversations with loved ones are essential in identifying struggling mothers.

She underscores the importance of planning for unexpected challenges during post-partum, such as poor sleep, breastfeeding difficulties, or healing complications. "Partnering with loved ones and accepting help is never a sign of weakness. Work with your social circle to create a practical approach to managing the demands of new parenthood. It really does take a village – which is even harder to come by in this day and age" says Wesso-Roberts.

As usual society plays a large role in pushing one towards depression, especially when motherhood is involved. "There is immense social pressure surrounding childbirth and child-rearing practices," notes Wesso-Roberts. "However, the most crucial aspect is that parents are content with their own decisions, irrespective of societal expectations. After discussion with your healthcare team, you will know what is right for you and your baby."

The burden of parental responsibility can take its toll on anyone’s mental health. Given this possibility, Wesso-Roberts urges mothers and their partners to be proactive about their mental wellbeing during pregnancy, fostering open communication and seeking support when needed.

"By addressing post-partum challenges head-on and before they even arise, we can contribute to a healthier, happier start for mothers and their new-borns" Wesso-Roberts concludes.

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