Breaking the silence: Talking about maternal mental health

An in-house webinar titled ” Breaking the silence: Talking about maternal mental health” was held by TPO Nepal on 24 September 2021. A total of 14 staff of TPO Nepal participated in the virtual event. Prasansa Subba and Pragya Shrestha who are currently working on perinatal depression were the speakers for the event, while the moderator was Parbati Shrestha. The objective of this webinar was to start a dialogue on the under-discussed subject matter of maternal mental health.

Parbati Shrestha started the webinar by introducing the speakers and the significance of the webinar. Then the first speaker, Prasansa Subba, gave her presentation on the context of maternal mental health. She shared that worldwide around 1 in 5 women have a mental health problem during pregnancy and the first year following birth, out of which over 75% do not get diagnosed or receive appropriate treatment. Even in Nepal studies have shown that about 5 to 33.4% of women suffer from perinatal depression. “When we do not address maternal mental health concerns, it affects the mother’s health, her child’s health, and her relationship with others,” said Ms. Subba.

Then Pragya Shrestha shared some of her experiences of motherhood and remembered feeling anxious and unable to do anything during her pregnancy and postnatal period. She also gave a presentation on the possible efforts to address maternal mental health. According to her, diet, rest/relaxation, exercise, health checkups, and pleasurable activities are all required to maintain a mother’s health.

One of the participants, Bidhya, also shared her experience as a mother. While her first pregnancy was joyful, she could not give a lot of time and care to the baby and herself during her second pregnancy. Despite being a health professional and doing the right things, she did not feel happy. So she took professional help during her second pregnancy to cope with issues like helplessness and hopelessness. Now, both she and her baby are doing well. She urged everyone to seek help and share their problems with someone if they are having similar issues.

Similarly, another participant Balkumari Ale highlighted the need for awareness, the right information, and support to mothers for their optimal health and urged the government to focus on this issue. The webinar was wrapped up after the question and answer session, where questions regarding grief, abortion/miscarriage, men’s emotional support, etc. were answered by the speakers.

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