Let’s help our new mums and mums to be…
In many countries, as many as 1 in 5 new mothers experience some type of low mood or anxiety. But despite these figures, 7 out of 10 new mums will not say anything to a healthcare professional, so it is easy to go unnoticed and untreated which can lead to long term consequences for both mother and baby.
It is vital that our health services monitor all women’s mental health during pregnancy and after the birth and treated in the same way as her physical health. Yet, during this pandemic there have been some changes in our maternity and community services where many new mothers and babies are not being visited at home by healthcare professionals. They may receive a check-up phone call, but a new mum may not be aware or feel comfortable talking about how she really feels.
Low mood and anxiety does not discriminate. Women of every age, culture, income level and race can experience perinatal mood and anxiety. Symptoms can appear at any time during pregnancy and during the first 12 months after the birth, so it is so important to raise awareness and educate others, so we are all aware of this. Equally, we need to raise awareness that there are effective and well-researched treatment options available to help women recover which include both medicative and non-medicative treatments.
Banish the Shame!
Many women suffer in silence because of a fear of being judged by the world. In my many years working as a counsellor, I have met many mums who have told me they thought of themselves as ‘strong women’ so never thought about or considered how counselling could help in the first instance. The irony is that I consider women who seek counselling as strong, self-aware, and determined and who want the best outcome for themselves and their baby.
During my counselling sessions, we work together looking at what the triggers may be, what we can implement to improve circumstances and work on natural mood enhancers.
A lot of pregnant or new mums are against taking medication and would only consider this as a last resort. Medication can play an important part in recovery, especially if they are experiencing severe mood swings, anxiety, depression and/or panic. However, medication often works best alongside counselling.
Over the years, medication has attracted bad press and many women are frightened or worried that the medication prescribed by GPs are addictive or not suitable to take while breastfeeding. Straight forward anti-depressants are not addictive and there are many different types of medication available to suit those who need it. GPs will be able to discuss, guide and inform about what may be the best option.
Drive Social Change!
We need to start talking about how we feel and break the taboo. Some women may be frightened or anxious about giving birth; some women may not feel an overwhelming sense of joy or love that they expect will come naturally when their babies are born; some women may not know or understand how they feel at all. I urge all mums to shout out, raise awareness, share their stories and feelings so that together, we will drive social change with a goal towards ensuring women experiencing all types of perinatal maternal mental health receive the care they deserve and reduce the stigma.
If you are reading this and know a new mum or mum to be and haven’t heard from her in a while, why not contact her to see how she is doing? Getting in touch could be the beginnings of her reaching out for help, especially during these unprecedented and isolating times.
If you feel that you are struggling as a new mum or mum to be, please do not struggle alone. I can offer you a free 15 minute, no obligation telephone call to answer any questions you may have about maternal mental health and to see if I could help you.