So if you’re feeling low, or completely out of your depth, you’re not alone. Anyone would feel wobbly with that assault on their body, daily routine and personal space.
But what if things are feeling unbearable? In this blog we’ll look at how having a baby might affect your mental health, and what to do.
What is perinatal mental health?
Perinatal mental health is the term used to cover the mental health issues you might experience from becoming pregnant up to your baby’s first birthday. The NHS recognises this is a period of high stress and dedicate resources to supporting mothers during this time. They estimate around one fifth of all mothers experience some form of perinatal mental illness. And those that don’t will still experience some of the symptoms, in less heightened ways.
Perinatal mental illness can include conditions such as:
- Anxiety disorders
- Postpartum psychosis
- Post traumatic stress disorder.
We’ll explore what this might look like in the rest of the blog.
Am I just adjusting to life with a baby or am I experiencing mental illness?
Many new mothers experience periods of time when they feel:
- Worried they aren’t looking after their baby properly. Questions like whether to put them down, get them into a sleep routine, why they are crying, how to keep them safe, whether they are feeding enough etc can occupy all your headspace, especially when you have a tiny person yelling at you.
- Like they just want to cry. Life has changed, and they’ve somehow lost themselves along the way. They feel low, and getting dressed is an effort. They’ve lost every ounce of energy or zest for life.
- Like they can’t cope. The house is a tip, other children are being left to their own devices, all anyone is eating is beans on toast, and getting a shower each day feels like a major victory.
- Sad about their birth. It wasn’t the experience they’d hoped it would be and they keep thinking about what happened.
If you have found yourself feeling similar, know that you’re in good company. When you’re in the midst of newborn chaos, you’re sleep deprived and your entire focus is on keeping another human alive, it’s natural to have moments when everything gets on top of you.
So if you have moments in your day when you just want to scream, or hide under the duvet, you’re not alone. It may reassure you to know that this is an entirely standard response to the strains of motherhood. An emotional rollercoaster throughout pregnancy and the first year goes with the territory to some extent. You’ll experience some low moments, but these will pass.
It doesn’t mean you should struggle on alone. Reach out for help from those around you – we have some ideas for practical ways to ask for help here. And if you need to process your birth with someone, there are a number of specialists who can help. Ask us and we’ll put you in touch.
But if you find your feelings aren’t going away – if you go for days feeling detached from your reality, or unable to cope, without respite - then it is definitely worth getting professional help. If you find your thoughts and feelings are getting in the way of you living your life and caring for your baby, it is time to seek help.
Perinatal mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of
It’s not just you. Perinatal mental illness is a real thing. Thankfully, as we progress through the 21st Century our society is getting better at being open about mental health problems.
There’s no need to feel shame or stigma attached to being unwell after having your baby. If you had tripped and broken an arm you would seek help to get it healed. It’s the same with seeking support for your mental health.
If you feel you might need help with your mental health during pregnancy or after birth, talk to your GP or midwife. They can refer you to a perinatal mental health team who will be able to provide specialist support.
As far as possible, let your loved ones know you are struggling. More than ever this is a time to put your own needs first. Accept all the help that feels right for you.
We will be starting community meet-ups for any new mothers in York later in summer 2021. These will be a safe place to come as you are. Whether you want to talk, listen, or just drink a cup of tea, you’ll be very welcome.
Just send us an email with the words ‘meet up’ and we’ll make sure to let you know the dates.