Maternal Mental Health Awareness week! (3rd-9th of May 2021)
Theme: Journeys to Recovery #myjourneytorecovery
For expecting parents, having a baby can create a rollercoaster of emotions. Excitement, joy, hope, and anticipation along with worry, fear, and stress. These emotions will most likely affect all parents at some stage, even if they present themselves differently. It’s no surprise that given all the challenges involved in pregnancy and parenthood that even the best prepared and supported parents will experience symptoms of stress and anxiety at some stage. These feelings are normal and some stress can actually be good for you as it can motivate you and help you focus on what you are doing. It can also increase your awareness of danger which helps protect you and your baby. However, in the longer-term, stress can be harmful and impact adversely on your mental wellbeing.
Here are some feelings you may be able to relate to if you are either an expectant parent or a new parent: Some parents can worry about finance, the health of the baby and mum, the disruption to their relationship with their partner or other children. In pregnancy, some women can find the sickness isolating, or the body changes hard to cope with. Some can find the birth traumatising. Some new mums can find their breastfeeding journey extremely difficult or disappointing. And some parents can find the arrival of the new baby stressful, the lack of sleep hard to manage, perhaps experience a lack of support or find it hard to adjust to the lack of time with friends socialising. Some new parents can feel that they haven’t yet connected with their baby, and so experience many negative feelings as a result of that. These feelings can lead to low mood, anxiety, and even mental illness such as depression. However, it can be treated and you can very soon be on the road to recovery!
A person's journey to recovery is entirely individual. There are many different roads you can take whether it be counselling, mindfulness, support groups, relaxation therapies, medication, arts, etc. It is important to know you are not alone on any road you choose, so many others have experienced what you are feeling and there is help out there from people that understand. As a parent you have a vital role to play, therefore looking after your own emotional wellbeing will have a direct and positive influence on your baby’s emotional wellbeing. Acknowledging when you are stressed/anxious or tired is the starting point to receiving the help and support you need. Talking to the right people e.g family, friends, health professionals can often make a big difference. Whether it's practical, emotional, or financial assistance you need, putting these supports into place at an early stage will help you manage your stress levels, form healthy connections and enjoy time with your baby.
*For some general tips on how to look after your perinatal mental health please see the bottom of this article*
AWARE has provided an online leaflet about looking after your mental health during pregnancy and after your baby is here. It has information on the forms of mental illness you can experience whilst also providing tips on how to manage it, and the services you can reach out to for help. You can find this leaflet here.
We also offer a free-to-attend Mood Matters Parent and Baby course that we would love to have you attend! You can sign up to one here.
If you have a journey to recovery that you would like to share in order to encourage other parents, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or put it up on social media using the hashtag #myjourneytorecovery and tag AWARE NI.
General tips for looking after your perinatal mental health:
- EAT AS WELL AS YOU CAN - Eating a balanced diet in pregnancy and parenthood is very important for the physical and mental wellbeing of you and your baby. So try to eat as healthily as you can and avoid sugary snacks or skipping meals. Try to plan ahead and if necessary pre-prepare your meals when you have time. For further information visit www.iamaware.org.uk/pregnancybook.pdf
- EASY ON THE ALCOHOL - Alcohol is a depressant and if you are feeling down or depressed it can make you feel worse. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s better to avoid alcohol completely.
- CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE - If you are feeling anxious, cutting down on the caffeine may also help. Try replacing some of your tea or coffee with water and avoid energy drinks.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP - Getting enough sleep can be difficult especially in the weeks following childbirth so try to nap when you can. Gradually, however, it should be possible for you to start getting back into a sleep routine. Gently winding down before going to bed can be helpful. Some mothers find things like having a milky drink, taking a bath or reading for a while can help them sleep better. For further tips see: And www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness
- LOOK GOOD FEEL GOOD - Looking your best can actually make you feel good so don’t be tempted to stay in your PJ’s - make time or ask others to help and this will give you time for those important things like showering and dressing. If you have the money why not try a bit of retail therapy and treat yourself to something new?
- HAVE SOME PAMPER TIME- Take some time out for yourself. Get your hair or your nails done – have a facial, a massage, or a sauna. These can all make you feel better and more relaxed. You deserve to be pampered; being a parent can be demanding so you deserve it.
- THE POWER OF MUSIC- Music has the power to change your mood and give you an instant lift if you’re feeling a bit down. So try putting on some of your favourite music and sing along if you can. Baby will enjoy it too!