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Maternal Mental Health Week 2024

It's Maternal Mental Health Week - a week to raise awareness of the mental health needs of expectant and new mothers. I wanted to share a little of my experiences and also where to go to get support. I believe that we need to get more comfortable having these conversations, to all be more aware of how we can support new parents – so I share my experience both in my courses and baby classes and here, to perhaps help others start these conversations too.  

 

We know that 1 in 5 of us will be affected by perinatal mental health challenges, how many mothers do you have in your circle of pals? It's likely that one, or more are experiencing or have experienced mental health problems. But, I wonder if it's something they've discussed or felt able to open up about, or if you would feel able to spot signs and support them to seek help?

 

My personal experience of postnatal depression caught me completely off guard. After the birth of my second Son, I had the usual wobbles in the early weeks (hormones are a b*tch), but as time went by I was honestly just convinced I was a TERRIBLE mother, I couldn't cope, I couldn't keep up with what my family needed, life felt like it was on top of me, I was letting people down, I was failing, not cut out for the job and certainly not deserving of two gorgeous children.

 

On the surface I was 'fine' - 'it's tough with 2, but we muddle through', all smiles, sharing the good bits with most, keeping the tears, the rage, the anger, the resentment and the unbearable shame and guilt closer to home. My mental health had ripple effects, I wasn’t looking after myself so well (hard anyway as a new parent!) and it impacted my relationships with family and friends.

 

As a hypnobirthing teacher I knew about PND & PNA as well as other perinatal mental health problems, and yet I couldn't see that I needed support (I was just a crap mother after all). It took a very patient husband and a kindly, but firm pal to give me the nudge I needed.


Frustratingly, my mental health was barely mentioned in my 6-week check-up phone call, it was too easily missed by a probably over-worked GP. And again, once I did reach out for help I found that support was slow to come, a wonderful GP was able to prescribe anti-depressants, but there was a waiting list for talking therapy, which came sometime later (following a couple of assessments where I felt like I needed to keep re-hashing how I felt and justify the need for support). The antidepressants helped, the counselling/CBT that came later was even better. There was definitely light at the end of the tunnel, and I had good follow-on support to a place where I felt well and strong again.

 

What I know to be true, even if I couldn’t see it at the time was that I was not failing and I most definitely wasn’t alone (1 in 5 remember). I also know my experience of the maternal mental health infrastructure wasn’t great and in my classes I hear this time again. We need to do better.

 

So, what can we do? To start, we can learn, we can understand – there are some great sources of information and place where we can get help. And, longer term I hope that by sharing our opinions, by supporting campaigns urging for better mental health funding we can improve our care infrastructure.


Where to find out more and get support?

If you are suicidal or in crisis please speak go to A&E, see a GP, or call the Samaritans on 116 123.

Maternal Mental Health Alliance is a great hub of information and sources of support and also runs campaigns for improvements.

Mind - has a great explanatory page and sources of support

PaNDAS is a great charity offering support for postnatal mental health challenges.




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