Zimbabwe: Child Birth Associated Mental Disorders


Mental health issues after child birth are very common and are associated with severe stigma.

Seventy to 80 percent of new mothers are affected by baby blues, while 10 to 20 percent suffer from postpartum depression and 1 percent suffer from postpartum psychosis.

Levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are sky high during pregnancy, much higher than they will ever be at any other time in a woman’s life.

Then suddenly after delivery of the baby and the placenta, they plummet. This neurobiological process triggers mental disorders to be described below.

There is societal pressure to feel happy and blissful, but the woman has just been through a traumatic experience in her life.

Especially for first time moms, the birth process is both profound and exhausting and being handed a brand-new baby to take care of with no manual included adds to the trauma.

Other factors that could make one even more likely to experience postpartum mental disorders include; a traumatic birth, unplanned C-section or labour induction, having difficulty in breastfeeding and sleep deprivation.

Knowing previous personal or family history of depression is an important factor.

Lack of a supportive husband or being a young single mother is a risk factor.

The vast majority of women find both the birth and the transition to motherhood challenging.

Certainly there’s lots of joy and it’s a time of great happiness, but it’s really difficult the first few weeks.

The postpartum blues also known as maternity blues or baby blues is:

A transient condition less than 14 days

70-80 percent of mothers could experience this shortly after childbirth

Mood labiality


Mild anxiety and depressive symptoms

Postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, typically emerges over the first 2-3 months after childbirth but may occur at any point after delivery. Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

Depressed mood or severe mood swings

Excessive crying

Difficulty bonding with your baby

Withdrawing from family and friends

Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual

Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much

Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy

Thoughts of harming the baby or self

Loss of interest in usual activities

Feeling worthless, incompetent

Inadequacy to cope with your baby

Excessive worry about the baby’s health

Postpartum psychosis, also called puerperal psychosis, is a term that covers a group of mental illnesses with the sudden onset of psychotic symptoms following childbirth.

A typical example is for a woman to become irritable, have extreme mood swings and hallucinations, and possibly need psychiatric hospitalisation.

Symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include:

Delusions or strange beliefs.

Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)

Feeling very irritated.


Decreased need for or inability to sleep.

Paranoia and suspiciousness.

Rapid mood swings.

Difficulty communicating at times.

My hope is this will allay anxieties families might experience when any one of these do happen. Remember there is help available and the earlier there is intervention the better for the mother, baby and the family.

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