Did you know that depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy? These affect around 10 to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women.
As many as 1 in 5 women will develop mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth and if untreated, these illnesses can leave a devastating impact on the woman and her family. Here at Maternal Kindness, our aim is to speak bravely and openly about our mental health as any one of us can suffer from it. There is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about – it’s taken me 36 years to realise this!
I recently discovered in my recent pregnancy that if you have suffered from mental ill health in the past, you’re more likely to become ill during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth, than at any other time in your life. Some women with a history of mental illness, however, remain perfectly well with positive mental health throughout their pregnancy, so everyone is different.
We all have different triggers for becoming unwell. Throughout pregnancy, we may begin to feel more vulnerable and anxious. Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems in pregnancy affecting 15 out of every 100 pregnant women. And in a year like never before, pregnant women have been faced with even more challenges in this global pandemic.
Women have been attending ultrasound scans alone, where 1 and 4 were told that there was no heartbeat and they’ve had to find the strength to roll themselves off that trolley and walk through a waiting room – full of healthy bumps and excited expectant mummies-to-be – and walk out of the hospital all alone. Feeling confused. Feeling lost. Feeling utter shock. Feeling devastation and heartache. Feeling totally scared for what will happen next… and then walk back to the car park to find the words to tell their baby’s daddy the devastating news.
Totally alone. Yet you could go to the pub with your mates and strangers.
Others, have had to face the most incredible experience mother nature can put us through and birth alone. Birth partners and daddies have missed out on that precious life-changing moment.
New mummies have been on the delivery wards feeling completely isolated, scared, and alone with a newborn. Yet you could go to the pub with your mates and strangers.
There haven’t been any weekly health visitor calling to see you just to check up on how YOU are over a brew and a chat. No baby groups to get dressed for and make those new mummy friends. No weekly weigh-in clinics for checking the baby is putting on weight and developing as they should be. Or to ask someone if the dry patch of skin on their tummy is normal. Or just someone simply telling you – MAMA, YOU ARE ENOUGH!
It’s been a pretty tough year but there are ways to help you…
If you have suffered with mental ill-health previously, this should be highlighted to your midwife or doctor who should develop a care plan with you. Treatment for ill mental health problems in pregnancy and after birth can include psychological treatments and/or medicine.
If like me, it may be suggested to self-refer yourself for mental health counselling - ideally you will want to see a perinatal specialist who works specifically with pregnant women and new mums. You may also want to try different private practices such as hypnobirthing, CBT or talking therapy, or for anxiety surrounding a traumatic birth, a 3-step rewind may also be suitable.
With Covid-19, it’s easy to be feeling pretty isolated right now whilst staying at home alone. There are things out there that can help you with online resources, telephone helplines set up by your local breastfeeding clinic etc and even online hypnotherapy and antenatal courses.
I started my pregnancy journey with an amazing hypnobirthing teacher and it really helped to focus my mind throughout the pregnancy within this pandemic. I was able to make friends with the other mummies via the weekly Zoom class calls and these are the ladies that I’m speaking to at 2am, 3am and 4am during midnight feeds. I know that if I’m awake then one of them will be too, because this is normal. They’ve given me so much support when I’ve needed advice or support… recommending nappy brands to try… or ideas for Christmas presents for a 6 month old…or where to start when clearing up a big poo explosion… or just when I'm having a low day and I need someone to speak to… We’re all figuring out motherhood together.
There is no book that gives you all the answers and without them, it would be a very isolating challenge indeed. Don’t try and do it alone. You’re not the only one going through this.
Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.
If you’re reading this and need help, please reach out. It is not a sign of weakness… but pure strength! Make that first step and dare to dream that tomorrow can be a better day. Maybe you’re having a bad day today, but not every day will feel like this.
Build that support army around you. Reach out and ask for help. Accept the help being offered to you. You're not failing by asking for help. You’re not failing for accepting help. You’re not failing – you’re growing.
Together we can get through anything.