A resource to support good mental health and wellbeing for the people of Qatar
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Mental Health in Women

How do women experience mental health issues?

It is equally important for both men and women to look after their physical and mental wellbeing. However, women can experience some mental health issues at higher rates than men and have symptoms and triggers related to these conditions specific to being female. These include Depression, Postpartum Depression, Psychosis (Symptoms of Psychosis), and Anxiety.


Mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety, can happen at any time, but we know women are more likely to experience these conditions during pregnancy and in the few years following that.


This section covers conditions in women related to risk factors specific to females, which make them more vulnerable to mental health conditions including:

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy or after the birth of a child
  • Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause
  • Certain significant life events that trigger stress including caring for a new baby


Understanding the risks and recognizing the signs and symptoms of these conditions can help, as early diagnosis and treatment can increase the chance of recovery. It is important to remember that effective treatments are available and with the right care most people will recover.


Women can experience any of the mental health conditions detailed on this site. Many women face the additional stresses of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents or may experience abuse, poverty and relationship difficulties, which can contribute to their mental illness.


"…A woman is raising kids, taking care of her husband, parents and parents in law at the same time… in case she's working, she needs to take care of her job as well…and her home"


"…My husband was always working. I used to take the kids to school and malls in weekdays while in the weekends they are at home and I have to entertain them and that added stress on me…"


It is important to highlight that in some cases mental health issues in women manifest themselves in a form of chronic pain or substance misuse.


"I felt it's just severe back pain and then when I went for a treatment

they told me that I am physically fit… they told me that they think

I face depression masked in a form of back pain"


Mental Illness related to hormonal changes, pregnancy and early child rearing



Depression is a common mental illness, characterized by:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Feelings of guilt or low self-worth
  • Disturbed sleep or appetite
  • Feelings of tiredness
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Impact on day to day functioning and relationships

Depression is more common among women than among men. Biological, life cycle, hormonal, and psychosocial factors that women experience may be linked to women's higher depression rate. Researchers have shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. Depression affects up to 1 in 10 women while they are pregnant and almost 1 in 7 women during the first year after the birth.


Some women may also have a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is associated with the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins. Also, during the transition into menopause, some women experience an increased risk of depression.


Mood change is one common side effect of using oral contraceptives (The pill) and some women do experience depression and other emotional changes whilst taking the pill.


"…I think women are generally more sensitive and emotional so they will accept their mental problems easier than men…"


Click here to learn more about the Signs and Symptoms of Depression common across all groups.


Antenatal and Postnatal Depression (PND)

Women are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy (known as the antenatal or prenatal period) and in the year following childbirth (known as the postnatal period). You may also come across the term 'perinatal', which describes the period covered by pregnancy and the first year after the baby's birth.


The causes of depression at this time can be complex and are often the result of a combination of factors. In the days immediately following birth, many women experience the 'baby blues' which is a common condition related to hormonal changes, affecting up to 80 per cent of women. The 'baby blues', or general stress adjusting to pregnancy and/or a new baby, are common experiences, but are different from depression.


Depression is longer lasting and can affect not only the mother, but also her relationship with her baby, the child's development, the mother's relationship with her spouse and with other members of the family.


The timing for the onset of post-natal depression (PND) varies. PND often starts within one or two months of giving birth and it can last several months after having a baby. About a third of women with PND have symptoms, which started in pregnancy and continue after birth.


Having postnatal depression can affect how you feel about your baby, including:

  • Feel guilty that you do not feel the way you expected to.
  • May or may not love your baby.
  • May not feel close to your baby.
  • Finding it hard to work out what your baby is feeling, or what your baby needs.
  • Resent the baby or blame the baby for the way you feel.


Additional to the general symptoms of depression, women may:


  • Avoid other people: You may not want to see friends and family. You might find it hard to go to postnatal support groups.
  • Feel Hopeless: You may feel that things will never get better. You may think that life is not worth living. You may even wonder whether your family would be better off without you.
  • Have thoughts of suicide: If you have thoughts about harming yourself, you should ask your doctor for immediate help. If you have a strong urge to harm yourself, seek urgent help (Getting Help)
  • Psychotic symptoms: A small number of women with very severe depression develop psychotic symptoms (see below - postpartum psychosis).

"…there are many women here who can't accept their babies, it is depression… there are many women that face this and feel ashamed…"


Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always.  You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as you expected to be happy about having a baby. However, PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault.


There are number of risk factors for PND including;

  • history of postnatal depression
  • poor support from family, spouse and friends
  • high life stress events like financial troubles or family problems
  • physical limitations or problems after child birth
  • family history of depression or mood disorders.


It is never too late to seek help. Even if you have been depressed for a while, you can get better. The help you need depends on how severe your illness is. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends. If you are more unwell, you will need help from a trained health professional. If your PND is severe, you may need care and treatment from a mental health service. (Getting Help)


"A Qatar based study of postpartum depression in 2011 conducted in Primary Health Care Centers suggested a prevalence of 17.6% in women following the birth of a child"


Postpartum Psychosis

Psychosis (also be referred to as psychotic illnesses or episodes) is when a person perceives or interprets events differently from people around them. This could include experiencing hallucinations, delusions or disorganized thinking, which can affect their thoughts and behavior. 

Puerperal psychosis (a severe form of postnatal depression) or postpartum psychosis is different from postnatal depression. It is a more severe illness. There are many different ways the illness can start. Women often have symptoms of depression or mania or a mixture of these. Symptoms can change very quickly from hour to hour and from one day to the next.


Click here to learn more about the Signs of Psychosis and related illnesses.


Most commonly these episodes begin in the first two weeks after birth. Often symptoms begin in the first few days after having a baby. More rarely, the illness starts later – several weeks after the baby is born.


For many women with postpartum psychosis there may be no warning. However, if you have ever had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia or another psychotic illness, your risk of postpartum psychosis is high.

If you also have a mother or sister who has had postpartum psychosis, your risk may be even higher.


There are many symptoms that occur in postpartum psychosis (Understanding Mental Health Conditions). These may include:

  • feeling 'high', 'manic' or 'on top of the world'
  • Delusions (Psychosis): these are odd thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true.
  • Hallucinations (Psychosis): this means you see, hear, feel or smell things that are not there
  • Thoughts for harming the baby


Your symptoms may make it very difficult for you to look after your baby and yourself. if you have postpartum psychosis, you may not realize you are ill. Your partner, family or friends may recognize that something is wrong and need to ask for help.



Anxiety is likely to be at least as common as depression during pregnancy and the year following, and many women experience both conditions at the same time. 

Anxiety is a common mental illness, characterized by:

  • Constant worries and fears
  • Feelings of nervousness or tension
  • Recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns
  • Restlessness or irritability 

When you feel anxious, you may have some of the following physical symptoms:

  • racing pulse
  • thumping heart
  • breathless
  • sweating
  • fear that you may have a heart attack or collapse 

Most new mothers worry about their babies' health. If you have Post-natal depression, the anxiety symptoms can be overwhelming. You may worry that:

  • your baby is very ill
  • your baby is not putting on enough weight
  • your baby is crying too much and you can't settle him/her
  • your baby is too quiet and might have stopped breathing
  • you might harm your baby
  • you have a physical illness
  • your PND will never get better


You may be so worried that you are afraid to be left alone with your baby and may avoid situations, such as crowded shops or situations, because you are afraid of having panic symptoms.


Preconception – Planning a pregnancy around mental health issues

If possible, you should seek specialist advice when you are planning a pregnancy.


A health professional can advise you and refer you to a psychiatrist to discuss your needs if you have current or previous mental health problems. They will review and discuss:

  • Your risk of developing PND
  • Your risk of developing postpartum psychosis
  • Risks and benefits of medication in pregnancy and after birth. This will mean you have the information you need to make decisions about your treatment
  • The type of care you can expect in your local area. For example, how professionals work together with you and your family. Also whether there is a perinatal mental health service or a specialist midwife


Advice for spouse of women with mental health conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth 

If your spouse has postpartum depression or psychosis, it can be very distressing for you. At first, you may be frightened or shocked. It is important that you ask for help when your wife first has symptoms. This is particularly important if she does not recognize that she is ill. If your wife is hospitalized with the baby, you may feel very alone and isolated. You may feel frustrated that there is little you can do to help. It is important that you seek help too, if you feel you need it.


Take time for yourself and prepare for when the mother and baby return home. Once your wife and baby are home try to:

  • be as calm and supportive as you can
  • take time to listen to your wife
  • help with housework and cooking
  • help with baby care
  • help with night time feeds as much as possible
  • let your wife get as much rest and sleep as possible
  • let other family members and friends help with shopping, cooking etc. if they can - this will give you more time to spend with your wife and baby
  • try not to have too many friends and relatives visiting
  • try to keep your home as calm and quiet as possible


"Your symptoms may make it very difficult for you to look after your baby and yourself. If you have postpartum psychosis, you may not realize you are ill. Your partner, family or friends may recognize that something is wrong and need to ask for help"​​​​​​​