With mental health problems affecting more than 1 in 4 people in the UK1, new research from Emma’s Diary2 has revealed that over half of women (53%) have experienced anxiety when pregnant, with a further quarter (23%) of UK mums-to-be admitting to feeling depressed1, resulting in a fear that they won’t be a good enough mum.

Parenting on Female First

Parenting on Female First

Becoming a mum is one of the most profound life changes that we can experience. Suddenly we are entirely responsible for a helpless and dependent baby. Meeting the needs of a newborn is exhausting, relentless and anxiety-provoking for all of us. If we feel healthy and supported, it can also be a fulfilling experience of delight, bonding and falling in love with our son or daughter.

For a few women, the hormonal changes that occur after childbirth can trigger serious mental health problems, but for most women the ‘baby blues’ is the extent of the effect of the hormonal changes and settles within days. But if childbirth is traumatic, or we have had a difficult upbringing, or we are currently living within unsupportive or abusive relationships, motherhood can be unexpectedly distressing and can lead to depression and anxiety.

If you’re feeling like your mental health has been impacted, the following tips will help you to look after you and your baby.

· The best place to start is to share your worries with someone you trust, if you can. Recognising you are not alone and that having worries or mental problems is common can make it easier to reach out and find support.

· Explore what support is available locally. Is there a drop-in group for new mums near where you live? Is there a local peer support, pregnancy or family helpline? If not, consider calling a national helpline line (for example Family Lives on 0808 800 2222), or referring to Emma’s Diary for a list of resources.

· Your health visitor and GP are there to help with any worries you have about your baby or yourself, so don’t hesitate in sharing how you are feeling. You might not even have the words to describe what’s wrong, but simply telling them ‘something isn’t right’ is a way to open the conversation and get the help you need.

· Children thrive best when their parents are healthy, so looking after your health is good for the whole family. This means making sure that you have some time for yourself regularly for self-care. Trusting and letting others develop their own relationships with the baby, and therefore giving you a break from 24 hour a day responsibility, will mean you feel less resentful. Having even a little space and time for yourself will help.

· Being kind to yourself is a great skill to learn as a new mum. It means understanding that children need lots of love and attention but have no need for perfection. In fact, sharing your mistakes enables children to realise it is ok to make mistakes and we can learn from them.

Dr Kathryn Hollins is a Parent, Child and Family Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist in private practice. She has recently teamed up with Emma’s Diary to launch its #MyMindAndMe campaign. For more information about Emma’s Diary and it’s for a list of resources for pregnant and new mums who may be experiencing mental health problems, please visit www.emmasdiary.co.uk/wellbeing

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