Mother’s Day and Mental Health

Being a mum is no easy feat – it takes a lot of sacrifice and hard work to care for and nurture children. Motherhood brings with it a myriad of responsibilities and challenges, from learning to change nappies to juggling work, home life and socialising.

Mums frequently put the wants and needs of their family before themselves, and can often hold themselves to unrealistic expectations in the role of mothering. The many challenges of motherhood can be extremely trying, and can contribute to the development of a number of mental health issues. This Mother’s Day we take a look at the mental health issues that can affect mothers and identify methods that can help.

New mothers

Becoming a mother for the first time is perhaps the biggest life-changing event for any woman. Pregnancy and the post-natal period are one of the times in a woman’s life when she may become more emotionally vulnerable. Pregnancy itself can be difficult, and the prospect of having a baby to care for and protect can be extremely daunting. According to the WHO, (World Health Organisation), about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women worldwide who have recently had a child, experience a mental health issue, primarily depression.

New mums may experience mental health issues in varying degrees. It is normal to go through mood changes after giving birth. Episodes of tearfulness and low mood in the first few days and weeks after giving birth, often known as the ‘baby blues’, can be brought on by the surge of hormones released at this time. However, some women experience mild to moderate anxiety and depression after giving birth, and others can experience severe anxiety, depression and psychosis. New mothers can experience feelings of inadequacy, anger, frustration and loss at the absence of expected feelings of happiness and fulfilment, as well as feelings of guilt and shame for experiencing mental health issues after having a baby.

Women should feel encouraged to talk to their partners, midwives, health visitors and GPs if they have any concerns about the way that they are feeling. Looking after mental wellness when the baby arrives may not be high on the list of a new mother’s priorities, but it is important to make time for this, as well as caring for the baby.

The challenges of motherhood

Beyond postnatal depression, mothers with children at varying ages can also experience mental health issues. Motherhood can be a trying challenge, and the responsibilities of caring for others and maintaining a family may be very stressful.

Motherhood can be lonely at times, as there is less time to spend with friends. Consistently putting the needs of others first can mean that you have little time to think about yourself. Added pressures such as family problems, financial issues and caring for elderly parents can put additional strain on mothers.

Mothers can often feel under pressure to be the perfect mother, and it can be difficult not to compare oneself with other mums. The prevalence of social media can exacerbate this, as so many mothers share photos and stories of their family online. It is important to remember that these images aren’t a true reflection of how other mum’s live - people will always try to portray themselves in a rosier tint on social media!

Treating mental health issues

Already this year it’s been reported in the media that accessing antenatal and postnatal psychological treatment can be problematic. Whilst the government is working hard to address this, it’s such a shame that more women cannot access treatments, as for most women simple reassurance and straight forward advice is all that is required.

For mothers who are suffering with mental health conditions such as post-natal depression, accessing high quality psychological support can be also be difficult from a practical point of view. In the first instance, going to see a GP whilst heavily pregnant, with a new baby or young child is logistically difficult. It can be even more difficult to attend an appointment with a psychological therapist once a week with a small baby in tow who needs regular feeding and attention; all at a time when a women is likely to be feeling drained an exhausted.

The good news is that psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT) are highly effective and many women won’t require very many sessions before they start to feel better. Simply understanding why a woman is feeling the way she is and what is causing symptoms of anxiety and depression, can help enormously. A treatment like CBT will help a woman learn new techniques, strategies and processes that will enable her to feel better. CBT is available in all areas of the country via the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme. Women can in many cases self-refer to their local service or ask their GP to refer them.

Accessing online talking therapy

In some areas it is possible to have therapy online, without the need to leave home. Clearly this is a really convenient and accessible way to get help. Whether you’re feeling anxious, depressed or otherwise mentally unwell, our free online CBT service can help you to understand and better manage your mental health condition. Get in touch with Ieso Digital Health today or read more about our one-to-one talking therapy online.

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