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Maternal Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

Maternal mental health and emotional well-being during pregnancy and in the year after birth.

Someone who has experienced emotional difficulties says:

‘If you have just had a baby or are pregnant and think you might be suffering from depression, experiencing intrusive or uncomfortable thoughts or are feeling very ‘wobbly’ but can’t bear to read another leaflet…please tell someone or show them this information…please don’t suffer in silence.  There are people out there who can help you.’

 

Everyone expects pregnancy and having a new baby to be a time of excitement and happiness where everything goes according to plan.

 It can be like that but sometimes this isn’t how it feels.  

 

You aren’t alone. About 1 in 5 women can experience emotional problems to some degree during pregnancy and in the first year after birth, so although you might feel as though you are the only one struggling and everyone else is managing well - this really isn’t true.  Sometimes it can bring up things from the past.

Most commonly women can experience depression or anxiety with symptoms that can be troubling such as:

  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
  • Loss of self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
  • Not feeling like doing the things you would normally enjoy.
  • Finding it hard to concentrate and remember things.
  • Feeling tearful and guilty that you aren’t coping or aren’t a good mother.
  • Avoiding talking to friends and family about how you feel – thinking that everyone else is coping better than you think you are.
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts or increased anxiety.
  • Not enjoying your baby and feeling that you don’t have a close bond to him or her.

  • Sometimes it can feel so bad that thoughts about harming yourself or your baby can occur and these can be really distressing – they are a symptom of the distress you might be feeling and will go as you start to feel better but it is important that you get some help quickly if you are having these thoughts.

These signs and symptoms can creep up gradually and other people may notice that you aren’t your normal self before you feel able to tell people yourself.  These are the most common signs and symptoms but if you are having any other troubling or worrying thoughts or don’t feel like your normal self please tell someone and seek some advice.

You may not believe that it is possible to feel better but depression and anxiety are very treatable emotional problems that can respond well to support from friends and family but there are other services in Berkshire that can help too.

The first step is often the hardest – Please tell someone how you feel-your midwife, health visitor or GP will know who can help you. 

Tell those you feel closest to or show them this information.

Remember - You are not alone. 1 in 5 women experience some level of emotional distress during this time. 

Look after yourself-be kind to yourself, accept help from friends and family, remember that there is no such thing as the perfect mother; you don’t have to do everything all of the time.

It is very treatable and you will recover-We know that support from those around you at home or from friends can work very well. 

Children’s Centres and other local resources can help you feel less isolated and your health visitor and other professionals will know what is available near to you. You can also access more information on this website about local activities that might help you.

Talking Therapy (such as that offered through Talking Therapies) to find different coping strategies can also work very well to help you manage your feelings and thoughts and can work very well with low mood, anxiety and OCD as well as with other mild to moderate emotional difficulties.

If you have mild or moderate mental health or emotional issues you can refer yourself to Talking Therapies on 0300 365 2000 or visit their website at http://www.talkingtherapies.berkshire.nhs.uk/    and complete their on line form. Ask someone to help you with this if you need to.

Medication can also play a part alongside talking therapies. Your GP can give you some guidance about medication based upon your individual circumstances and you should seek such advice before stopping any medication.

Sometimes where the emotional issues or difficulties you are experiencing are more complex or not mild or moderate and may not be suitable for Talking Therapies your GP, Midwife or Health Visitor or other professional involved in your care and support may wish to refer you on to another service.

They can refer you to the Common Point of Entry (CPE) with Berkshire NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust for a more detailed assessment with someone who specialises in working with and assessing women during this period in their lives and who will be able to refer you on to any other services that you might need at this time in respect of your emotional well being.

If you are a dad/partner/friend reading this and are worried about your partner or friend:

  • Tell her you are worried or concerned about her and support her to get the help she might need. 
  • Often new mums can feel very guilty that they aren’t coping or enjoying being a mum at the moment and be reluctant to ask or accept help  - so ask or offer again if you need to.  It might help to show her this information.
  • Offer to help and support her with what she feels she can do herself and support her with the things she feels she cannot manage at this time.
  • Look after yourself - Actually dads can experience similar emotional difficulties during this time so if you are struggling please talk to someone so that you can get any help and support that you might need yourself.

Expert advice – from someone who has been through it who says:

  • accept the highs and the lows of motherhood.
  • do not feel alone in your despair, the professionals involved in your care are trained to deal with this illness as they would a physical problem related to childbirth.
  • remember to care for yourself as well as your baby.
  • don't be fooled or intimidated by other mums pretending to be"supermum", many mothers suffer in silence, putting on a brave face saying what they think the world wants to hear at this stage in your life.
  • Being open and honest with the professionals involved in your care about your true feelings will enable you to receive the help you need sooner.
  • it's ok not to feel elated following the birth of your baby. Pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a baby is one of the hardest things you'll ever do in life, for which we have no manual! As with learning to ride a bike, we all fall off at times and need help and encouragement to get back on. It's not a weakness or something to feel ashamed about, it's a real illness that will improve with care.

Just a note of caution:

Very rarely especially in the first few weeks after the birth things can become more difficult very quickly and if you think that this is the case please contact your partner’s midwife, health visitor or GP as a matter of urgency.

This information has been put together by Bryony Gibson Manager for Trust (Berkshire NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust) Perinatal Mental Health Services based at CPE with contributions from women who have experienced difficulties during pregnancy and in the post natal period.

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