Taking Care of Mental Health for Moms

We receive a lot of unrealistic messages from society about pregnancy and motherhood, often being sold a ‘perfect’ story of matching clothes, doing lunch with other moms, baby massage and a wonderful bond with baby and partner.  It can be difficult when these expectations aren’t met and motherhood isn’t the amazing experience we are told it should be.

So we know that we have a baby at the end of pregnancy, a whole human that is a miracle and a mystery, but this doesn’t always compensate, at first, for the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth.  Most of the time pregnancy goes okay, there might be some sickness, some sleepless nights, but on the whole it’s manageable.  But what about when it doesn’t go well?  The continual sickness leading to hospitalisation, the anemia leading to iron tablets or blood transfusions, the trauma and worries of extra scans if baby isn’t seen to be developing as expected.  All of this in the short space of 9 months with the expectation of happiness, nesting and blooming.

And next comes the sleepless nights, the conflicting advice that’s well meant but doesn’t always give answers, the crying, the feeding, the constant demands with little reward or gratitude.  Some of this can lead to feelings of hatred and guilt that are perfectly normal but often not discussed and can be tremendously difficult to manage.  Mixed in with this is the overwhelming love, the fascination of watching your child develop, the daily milestones that are reached. Motherhood brings with it the intensity of the extremes of our emotions that cannot be described or understood until they are experienced.

So how do we manage all of this whilst adjusting to our new life as a mother? 

Communication – it is important to have at least one person that you can be completely honest with about how you’re feeling.  The good and the bad.  Buying into the idea that everything should be perfect or a certain way and keeping silent when you’re struggling with life not meeting these ideals can lead to a build up of stress, resentment, guilt and ultimately a decline in mental health.  Having somebody you can communicate honestly with can help to normalise what you’re experiencing, help you to feel supported as well as offer you another opinion in terms of your own mental health.

Self Care – we all would like to be a ‘super mom’ but this is an impossibility.  Even those moms that you think have completely got it together will have their own struggles you may not be aware of.  Ask yourself what is the worst that will happen if the ironing doesn’t get done, or the house isn’t as tidy or clean as you would like it to be?  Taking care of yourself is much more important.  Remember to take time for yourself, going for a walk, listening to music, having a relaxing bath.  Ask others to help, maybe somebody could do a shop for you, or cook some meals so that you have that time to take care of yourself.  If you take care of yourself you will be more able to take care of baby, have fun and enjoy being a mother. 

Sleep – on average adults need 8 hours of sleep so it’s important to think about how you may be able to achieve this.  You will have all sorts of advice and it’s important to remember that what works for one person won’t work for another.  It may be sleeping when baby sleeps and napping throughout the day, going to bed early at night when baby goes to bed and allowing yourself to stay in bed later may work to get your 8 hours in between each feed. Go with what works for you whilst aiming for 8 hours as often as possible.

Meet with other moms – you’re at a new stage of your life and it’s important to meet with others that you can share your experiences with and that can help to normalise your thoughts and feelings.  The best group for you depends on your interests and you can speak with your health visitor to find out about what groups are in your area.  There are many fitness groups for moms to attend with their babies and exercise is great for positive mental as well as physical health.  To ensure that exercises are appropriate for your body after pregnancy check that instructors have training in this area.  An example of this is mswellfit.co.uk that offers a holistic health service in Solihull for all women and moms.

Nurture your own interests – we can become so consumed by our new life as a mother and looking after others that we can forget about our own hobbies and interests.  It is natural that you will not be able to maintain some things for a time, however it is important to remember your own needs.  Stretching your mind, being creative, achieving and having time for fun is all essential for maintaining your own wellbeing.

Recognise the signs that you would benefit from extra support – Whilst your body and mind are recovering and your hormones are returning to normal following your pregnancy it is normal to experience a whole spectrum of emotions and to feel more teary, irritable and at times lost.  Known as the baby blues, this should only last for around 2 weeks and you should notice over the days and weeks that your mood is returning to normal.  However if there is a consistent change in mood that lasts for longer than 2 weeks this may be a sign that you would benefit from extra support.  The signs to watch out for are:

– Constant worrying or anxiety, particularly if your thoughts have become illogical

– Frequent crying for no apparent reason

– Difficulty bonding with your child

You can get extra advice and support for these issues from your health visitor or the GP.  More serious symptoms needing immediate support from your GP are:

– Disturbing or illogical thoughts about yourself or your child 

– Thoughts of harming yourself or your child

– Hallucinations 

1 in 4 of us experience a mental illness at some point in our lives and many more struggle with their emotional wellbeing.  This is a normal part of life and seeking support early can help with a quicker recovery. If you are interested in counselling in Birmingham and Solihull and would like more information about what I can offer please do get in touch to discuss or to make an appointment.