How Does Maternal Mental Health Impact a Child?

Maternal mental health has not always been on the radar to address for many behavioral health providers in our nation. In 2020, the outlook on the world has changed, and the mental health of mothers (and fathers in general) is becoming increasingly important to the behavioral health community. More and more service providers are exploring mental health disorders in pregnant women, new mothers, or experienced mothers and how their mental health affects their babies. According to the world health organization, approximately 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth have a mental disorder, primarily depression, which results in an inability to function properly and affects the growth and development of their children. Below are some common types and causes of a mother’s mental health disorder and how managing one or more of these disorders may affect the baby.

Maternal Mental Health

Common Types of Maternal Mental Health Disorders

1) Postpartum Depression / Depression

Depression is the most common maternal mental health problem experienced by mothers worldwide. While many mothers experience different types of depression in their lives, the first type most experienced is postpartum depression. Up to 80% of women experience postpartum depression to some degree after childbirth. Symptoms of this maternal mental disorder include drowsiness, impatience, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, restlessness, sadness, intrusive thoughts, or an inability to concentrate.

2) Anxiety Disorder

Another common maternal and maternal mental health problem is anxiety disorders. This is often experienced as extreme / excessive anxiety and fear of everyday situations. Some mothers suffer from it due to fear of harming their children or other causes outside of motherhood. Regardless of the cause, heightened anxiety can affect parents’ decision-making and the ability to evaluate certain situations and other processes when raising a child.

3) Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is classified as a pattern of unwanted thoughts, fears, and obsessions that lead an individual to experience certain compulsions that interfere with daily life and are often exacerbated by increased stress levels. A parent who is now responsible for a helpless child could suffer from OCD and a desire to keep the child off the hook. It can lead to persistent cleanliness habits, repetitive crafting or actions, mental compulsions, and more.

4) PTSD

A common mental health disorder in the United States is PTSD or PTSD. Ptsd can arise from many experiences, but the most common is the experience of mothers who have had a traumatic birth. Otherwise, this type of PTSD, known as birth trauma, is known as the fear you experience during childbirth that harm will happen to you or your baby or awareness of those fears (high-risk births).

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The Impact of The Mental Health of The Father and The Mother on The Children

During the formative years of a child’s life, the mother or father’s mental health greatly affects the child’s behavioral and mental health. A parent who manages some form of parental or maternal mental health disorder can sometimes experience reduced ability to manage, respond to, and interact with their child in a way that promotes stability, growth, and development. If left untreated, a parent’s mental health disorder can become dangerous and affect the child.

Untreated, a parent’s mental health can have many important impacts on a child’s emotional and behavioral health, such as:

  • Decreased social performance
  • Decreased academic performance
  • Child / adolescent mental health disorders
  • Increased risk of drug abuse

Seeking treatment for a parental or maternal mental health disorder (s) is essential to reduce your child’s risk of any of these consequences. If you think you have depression, anxiety, or another form of mental health disorder, you should consult a behavioral health care provider.