Perinatal mental health awareness
Many women across the country have been told that pregnancy is a time when we should feel very happy and euphoric however for some expectant mothers the feelings of anxiety, panic and sadness may begin to take root. During pregnancy, women are constantly bombarded with ‘well-meaning’ comments and statements from other people’s perceived views of pregnancy, such as women to be glowing, happy and enjoying preparing for the arrival of their bundle of joy. Unfortunately, the reality consists of morning sickness, swollen feet and ankles and raging hormones. In the real world, women can feel uncomfortable about changes to their figure, feel permanently exhausted and growing anxious about the impending arrival of her baby.
Emotional support and reassurance for expectant mothers are vital to women’s mental health and wellbeing. Some women have the support of their partner, close friends and family member during their pregnancy however sadly some women do not have that support to rely on which can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness, which in turn will affect mood and wellbeing. When you develop low mood or anxiety it can be helpful to speak to somebody who is impartial and unrelated to yourself in order to gain honest feedback and advice on how to manage our emotions, in pregnancy mental health becomes a priority however according to NHS England there is a significant lack of perinatal mental health services available to women and their families, which is a real shame as there are many families in the UK who desperately need specialist help and support.
There are endless problems and issues which present themselves during your pregnancy, which may seem unmanageable and impossible to solve. It is important to know the warning signs of changes in mood and to be able to recognise specific symptoms which may occur when you are feeling low such as:
- Lack of interest in enjoyable activities.
- Becoming tearful or upset easily or for no apparent reason.
- Reduced motivation.
- Becoming irritable, snappy or angry for no apparent reason.
- Resenting becoming pregnant/having your baby.
- Increased anxiety about being alone with the baby.
- Recurrent worry or negative thoughts about parental ability, such as ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’, ‘my child won’t stop crying because it hates me’, ‘I’m scared in case I break the baby!’ and ‘I’m a bad mother/father’.
- Becoming overly obsessive about your baby, such as worrying and becoming overly upset if your baby is within the correct centiles for height or weight for their age, whether baby is sleeping too much or too little, worrying and becoming emotional if your baby is in another room in the home and worrying whether your baby is clean enough and then bathing the baby more often than you should.
This is not an exhaustive list of known triggers however it is important to get to know your symptoms in order learn effective mood management techniques.
A few things to bear in mind when you are experiencing perinatal mental health problems are:
- Be kind to yourself. I know this is easier said than done and we are all guilty of beating ourselves up from time to time but just be mindful of the fact that you will have days which are tougher than others however by getting through the tough days proves that you are capable of looking after your baby and you are doing one of the hardest jobs in the world – which is being a parent!
- Try not to compare and despair. Comparing ourselves to other parents is one of the most common parental anxieties that every parent will experience when raising a child. When we realise that all parents have off days and understand that not everyone gets parenting right all the time, you are doing great and need to believe this.
- Take baby steps. When you have a baby, especially a newborn, there are times when you have to take each day as it comes as you’re getting used to a new routine and planning to go on days out with friends seems like an impossible dream. By focusing on one day at a time this allows the new parents time to build confidence and deal with any issues or worries which occur.
Remember each person’s journey into parenthood is individual and filled with its own trials and tribulations as well as fun and frolics which allows us all to grow and change personally. Enjoy every moment of the journey!