Shockingly 1 in 5 women will develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. 7 out of 10 women hide or downplay the severity of that illness. Claire Cole is the founder of Movement for Mums, a fitness company which is focused on boosting and supporting mental health and she was one of these statistics. Agoraphobic in her 20s, she went on to suffer with postnatal psychosis after the birth of her first child but told no-one until she could no longer cope.

Health on Female First

Health on Female First

Claire reflects on that time with sadness, “scared of the thoughts in my head, scared of being a bad mother, scared of judgement, I felt like I was locked inside fear. I was surrounded by people but it was the loneliest time of my life and I think there are other mum’s who feel like I did but we are too scared and ashamed to admit we need support, we feel like we are failing. Today I finally feel that society is changing its attitude towards mental illness and there is now more support than ever.”

At Female First we strongly believe in the importance of Maternal Mental Health and here’s our 7 reasons why:

1. No women deserves to suffer in silence

Forget the perfect mother myth. Motherhood is not a Hollywood style photo, it is not breastfeeding and squatting simultaneously whilst whipping up a batch of sugar free purees. Motherhood is relentless, demanding, draining and overwhelming. Open up and ask for help.

2. No one is immune

Any woman regardless of age, culture and income can suffer with maternal mental health, it does not discriminate. It is not your fault, you are not a bad mother and you are not failing. Let your loved ones help support you.

3. Know the signs

We should all know what to look out for. Maternal mental health symptoms can appear as deep sadness, hopelessness, excess worrying, loss of appetite, overwhelming fatigue, guilt, withdrawal and thoughts of self harm or harming your baby. Maternal mental health issues are treatable.

4. It can happen at any time

Maternal mental health symptoms can happen during pregnancy or up to 2 years post childbirth. Having a baby is a big event, it’s ok to not be ok but if your day to day life is being impacted it may be more than the baby blues. Often we hear terms like perinatal and postnatal used by professionals, perinatal is the period of time up to giving birth, postnatal is the period after birth and mental health illnesses can develop in either of these periods.

5. Learning to care for yourself

Give yourself the grace you give others, we are conditioned as mothers to put ourselves at the bottom of the to-do list but listen up, you need to be selfish and look after you. Yes, you are a better person and mother when you get a big shot of sanity aka “me time”. Don’t let guilt get in the way.

6. Treat your mental health the same as your physical health

Exercise is not an immediate go to shot of feel good for most of us but we all know it releases feel good endorphins in the brain. Sometimes we have to build physical strength to build mental strength, most people aren’t ashamed to see a doctor to help them take care of their body so don’t feel ashamed if you need to ask for help for your mental health.

7. Know where to get support

The NHS is investing 2.3bn in mental health services, you can take a mind quiz to receive a personalised mind plan. Mind, Tommy’s, Pandas and Maternal Mental Health Alliance are all charities focused on mental health.

Claire is passionate about helping women who are, or have experienced maternal mental illness, she is supporting the Maternal Mental Health Alliance awareness week in May 2020 where you can also find a list of help and support resources.

Claire believes that together we can raise awareness by telling our stories and inspiring other mum’s to find the support they need.

You are not alone.