Looking after your Mental Health

People don’t often talk about mental health in pregnancy and beyond. This needs to change and hopefully it is with such Antenatal Courses as Bump to Cradle.

Mental health problems still carry a stigma and this is no different when related to pregnancy and the postnatal period. Problems at this time are common. Did you know that up to 80% of women experience baby blues (low mood, irritability, anxiety, tearful in the week or so after you have your baby) and 1 in 10 women suffer with postnatal depression? Did you know that men can also experience postnatal depression? Postnatal anxiety, panic disorder and even postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also very real. This is not to say they will happen to you but awareness is surely the key to early recognition and therefore treatment.

Having your first child is a new and overwhelming experience and we shouldn’t underestimate how the challenges of having a newborn can affect women and their partners’ emotional health. The attention is on you in your first pregnancy and then when the baby arrives, this can quickly shift.  It is very easy in those early months when you’re feeling exhausted and in ‘survival mode’ to put yourself last. However, one of my top pieces of advice is to try and think about yourself a bit more when this time comes. If you’re breastfeeding, think about introducing a bottle (of expressed breast milk or formula milk) then you have the option of letting your partner or family members do a feed. You can then have a rest, take a bath or whatever it is that will help you feel a bit more ‘like yourself’ again. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Think about getting back to exercise, not to ‘get your body back’ in the first instance but to give you that sense of looking after yourself and having some time to be you again. Trust me, it’s incredibly easy when your focus is on your newborn to forget all these things.

The walk out to the shops on your own, the long bath when your partner has taken the baby out, the postnatal exercise class, whatever it is that gives you some time, will be helpful in trying to prevent or reduce mental health problems.

These are just tips however and low mood and other problems can of course pervade, in which case, seek help early if you can. There are so many support networks now so it’s a matter of being able to reach out to your Midwife, GP, or Health Visitor. It’s also incredibly important to realise that you are never alone, like I mentioned, these problems are common, but not often talked about. It’s very easy to compare yourself to others – other women and their partners may seem like they’ve got it ‘all under control’ but the truth is - they probably feel as overwhelmed as you!

For more information on looking after yourself and your baby, as well as childbirth, check out our expert led antenatal courses at www.bumptocradle.com.

Dr Miriam Walsh