Your little bundle of joy is en route into the world, Mama! With books, podcasts, and other Mamas, there’s plenty of advice out there on taking care of your little one, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too. It’s important to know what maternal mental health is and understand what it means for you. Although you may have expected to feel nothing other than relief, joy, and happiness, during and after your journey, it’s perfectly normal to find yourself on a rollercoaster of emotions instead.
Keep reading to learn more about what maternal mental health is and why it is so important!
What is maternal mental health?
There’s no doubt that the pregnancy journey can be an overwhelming and emotional one. Bringing another human into the world is a big deal, Mama! However, if any difficult feelings start to really impact you on a day-to-day basis, it’s time to look into your maternal mental health, also known as perinatal mental health.
What maternal mental health refers to is your mental health during the pregnancy and the first year after birth. Whether your precious little one in the world with you or still in your tummy, you may feel pressure to be happy, excited, organised, and prepared. You may also be expecting to have a deep, strong connection with your baby as soon as you lay eyes on them. If this isn’t the case, it can seem difficult to talk openly to others about your feelings. However, with the upheaval and sleepless nights that accompany a newborn baby, you’re not alone if you’re feeling a whirlwind of emotions and don’t experience that instant bond!
According to the RCOG, up to 1 in 5 women develop maternal mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. These can include a generally low mood, anxiety, and depression. Sometimes it can be difficult to know whether it’s simply a low period or a sign of something more serious. In these cases, follow your natural instinct. You are the best judge of whether these emotions you’re experiencing are normal for you.
If you are finding things difficult, just know that what you’re feeling is not your fault, and you’re not on your own, Mama! Mental health during pregnancy and afterward is thankfully becoming a more understood and spoken about topic. Don’t be afraid to ask for support!
Why is mental health during and after pregnancy important
So, why is mental health during and after pregnancy so important?
Sweeping negative feelings and emotions under the rug is no solution for anyone, especially if you feel as though you are struggling mentally with baby on their way. By ignoring your mental health during pregnancy, you will not be able to get the support you may require. Instead, these negative feelings can accumulate and trickle into your physical health and that of your precious little one.
Plus, once you’ve made it through the feet swelling, the night sweats, the morning sickness, and your little bundle of joy has arrived into the world, your mental health should not get pushed to the side. It’s equally important during this time to still pay attention to your feelings and emotions, Mama!
By sharing how you feel with your GP or midwife, you are taking the first step on your road to recovery. With everything out in the open between you both, they can talk to you about the support that is available to help you improve your mental health during and after pregnancy.
If you’ve experienced some struggles during a previous pregnancy, you might be apprehensive about having another baby. However, this time around you may feel more confident about how to look after yourself and spot the signs that tell you that you might require some support.
Where can you find mental health support for mothers?
As mentioned, you should take advantage of the resources out there, Mama! There is plenty of mental health support for mothers both online and in person, such as your midwife, GP, family, friends, parent-and-baby groups, and specialist organisations, all of which are judgment-free zones.
The purpose of these groups is to gather Mamas together in an informal setting so you can chat, share tips, and make friends with others who are on similar journeys!
There are also antenatal groups for Mamas-to-be. Simply ask your midwife or doctor and they will be able to provide you with more information about these.
In the UK, there are organisations like Home-Start and NCT that specialise in mental health support for mothers by helping you to become part of a community, prepare for life as a Mama and look after your mental health.
There are lots of communities online such as Netmums where you can share your experiences in the comfort of your own home and talk to other parents.
Another online support community is Side by Side, which has been created specifically to support parents who want to chat about their mental health experience and share advice.
Pick up the phone
Sometimes, it’s important just to hear another voice at the end of the line. Mental health support for mothers is at your fingertips by dialling one of the numbers below:
- Samaritans – 116 123 (available 24 hrs a day)
- Mind – 0300 123 3393 (available 9am – 6pm Mon-Fri)
- NHS Choices – 111 (available 24 hrs a day)
Websites with more support
If you want to learn more about how you might be feeling, there are plenty of resources online that provide advice and guidance.
- Maternal Mental Health Alliance
- Action on Postpartum Psychosis
- Association for Post-Natal Illness
- Maternal OCD
- Miscarriage Association
With all of the stress and upheaval of your little one arriving, it’s easy to push your mental health during and after pregnancy to one side. However, your emotions matter, Mama! Take the first step to learn about your maternal mental health and understand how you’re feeling today.