Maternity and Severe Mental Illness: How Are They Related?

Going through motherhood with serious mental illness can be difficult, but not impossible. You only need to have proper accompaniment. Find out more.
Maternity and Severe Mental Illness: How Are They Related?

Last update: 03 November, 2021

Many women have projects in their lives, and among them is that of becoming mothers and starting a family. But what happens when they suffer from some kind of disability or a serious mental illness? In this article, we’re going to tell you about it.

Motherhood, a beautiful but complex experience

We all know that motherhood isn’t easy at all, and in the case of suffering from any illness, things can get a little more complicated.

This doesn’t mean that a mother with a diagnosis of severe mental illness is a bad mother, but rather that she needs adequate restraint to carry out this role in the best way possible.

Therefore, social and family support is essential in order to achieve the well-being of the mother and the child. In addition, in case of suffering from a serious mental illness, it’s important to talk with a specialist before taking the big step.

What do we mean by severe mental illness?

A mother looking distressed while sitting near her baby.

A serious mental illness is an emotional and behavioral disorder that affects the development of a person’s functional abilities. If we look at the basics of daily life, this condition can affect personal hygiene, autonomy, personal relationships, and even learning.

Determining the severity of this disorder is based on the type of diagnosis, the duration, and the degree of disability that it produces.

Some mental disorders occur at a certain point in life, such as postpartum depression. But others, on the other hand, are more long-lasting: Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are some examples.

People who suffer from these illnesses need personalized treatment and monitoring by a specialist in order to make the disease more bearable.

Motherhood and severe mental illness: Is it possible?

The combination of motherhood and severe mental illness is a subject that many people find difficult to understand, even today. In fact, the vast majority of people wonder how you can take care of a child if you can’t take care of yourself.

The truth is that all people who want to be mothers or fathers try to do it in the best possible way, whether or not they have a health condition.

Raising a child with this type of disease is a greater challenge, but not an impossible mission. Therefore, it’s important to talk with a specialist beforehand, as they’re the ones who best know the reality of that person.

What should you keep in mind before seeking to become pregnant?

If you suffer from a serious mental disorder, you need to take into account certain aspects before taking the step toward motherhood:

  • You should know that you won’t always find yourself 100% able to dedicate yourself to your child. In times when you’re not able to do so, you should have someone you trust to delegate that responsibility to.
  • It’s important to have some financial stability to raise a child. If you can’t keep a job, it’ll be difficult for you to provide for one more person. Therefore, evaluate whether you can afford this expense or not.
  • Depending on the disorder you have, you may find it difficult to follow the schedules and routines necessary for healthy parenting. Also, there may be tasks that are very difficult for you to complete when you’re alone.
  • It’s possible that some symptoms of your illness will confuse your child when they grow up. Therefore, it’s important that, when they’re old enough to understand, you openly tell them about your condition. This way, it’ll be easier for them to understand those behaviors.

Each case is different and it’s difficult to generalize. Some people will need more help and others less, depending on their mental disorder.

If you want to expand your family, follow treatment without interruptions and take good care of yourself, both inside and out. This will better prepare you for the arrival of your child.

A woman with her arm around a pregnant woman's shoulder in a therapy session.

About motherhood and severe mental illness

Throughout this article, we’ve tried to convey to you that it’s possible to combine motherhood and serious mental disorders, as long as the necessary aspects to do it well are taken into account.

In addition to the support of your doctor, your family, and your friends, you can count on some support groups from the getting to know patients with the same disease.

The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and that you trust the specialist. This way, you’ll get a better follow-up of the treatment and a life that’s as normal as possible.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ríos, R. R., Tato, M. N., Otero, S. P., Loureiro, S. M., Álvarez, S. G. L., Castiñeira, M. C., & Otero, M. C. V. (2016). Maternidad y trastorno mental grave. Norte de Salud Mental, 14(55), 55-65.
  • Contreras, M., Del Amo, R., Muñoz, M., & Panadero, S. Número 11-Agosto 2014 Prevención de trastornos mentales en hijos de personas afectadas por trastornos mentales graves.
  • García González, N. Papel de los Determinantes de Salud en la Mujer Gestante con Trastorno Mental Grave: Visión Holística.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.