Becoming a mother is one of, if not the greatest, life changing experience and challenge in a woman’s life.
For many, it is also something that can have a major effect on their mental health, before and for a long time after the birth.
Themonth of May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month and local therapist, Sarah Barr, told the ‘Journal’ it was imperative that mammies make time for themselves to ensure they are happy and healthy.
“Remember, you are good enough,” she declared.
It is estimated that one in five mums will experience some type of perinatal (during pregnancy) or postnatal mood and anxiety disorder.
Sarah said she believes that Maternal Mental Health month was a ‘great opportunity to not only ask how baby is doing, but how mum is doing.’
“It creates more awareness and starts conversations around this topic -helping to break down barriers and decrease the often negative stigma attached to mental health. “
Living with a mental health illness can be very frightening and lonely. You may feel you are the only one who is feeling this way or you are failing. You are not alone nor failing, maternal mental health awareness is about sending this message out to mums. Mental Health does not discriminate. Anyone, regardless of age, background, relationship or financial status, can face a mental health issue.”
Sarah, who has two young daughters, set up her own counselling practice, ‘New Beginnings’ in 2016 and it appears to have naturally appealed to mothers.
“Maternal Mental Health, I believe, needs more awareness and support services, especially for mums during pregnancy and the first year after the baby is born.
“With a need for more awareness and support, I created and facilitate a five week wellness workshop for mums, called ‘Minding Mummy.’ It offers a safe space for mums to meet, learn positive coping techniques to help their well-being and mental health; to increase awareness around mental health illnesses but, most of all, to allow mums some ‘me time,’ to chat, laugh and make new friends.”
Sarah said there are many things mammies can do to care for their own mental health.
“I would really promote self care and talking. Self-Care can be anything from taking 10 minutes each day to enjoy a cuppa; to joining a group or enrolling in a course; having a relaxing bath filled with Epsom Salts and lavender essential oil, exercising and journalling. Journalling is a brilliant technique that helps you to sort out and process your thoughts and feelings.
“At the end of each day, rate your mood; write down any negative thoughts and ask yourself is it a fear based thought or belief and what real factual evidence have you got to say this thought is real.
“Finish off by focusing on three things you are grateful for. By doing this daily for a month you will increase your self awareness and find it easier to focus on what you are grateful for. Before bedtime gentle guided meditation or breathing exercises ( Youtube is a great source) can help to clear your mind and relax your body.
Finally, find someone to talk to. A family member, friend, partner or counsellor. Once you tell someone how you are feeling you will feel a weight has been lifted.”
Sarah explained while Post Natal Depression may be the most commonly known Maternal Mental Health issue, there are many more feelings mothers can experience.
“Perinatal anxiety occurs during pregnancy. Symptoms can include feeling nervous; tense or fearing the worst. Having a busy mind with intrusive thoughts or images, repetitive negative thoughts; thinking about a thought over and over again and dwelling on a negative situation, often finding it difficult to concentrate, having anxiety/panic attacks.
Perinatal depression can also occur during pregnancy. Symptoms can include having a low mood; a loss of interest; poor sleep and appetite; lack of energy; feeling hopeless and withdrawing into yourself. Postnatal depression can occur anytime during the first 12 months. Symptoms all those listed for perinatal depression, as well as having difficulty bonding with your baby; thinking you can’t look after your baby; having frightening thoughts possibly about hurting your baby and thinking about suicide or self-harm.”
There is also postnatal anxiety and mothers who have had a difficult or traumatic delivery may be at a higher risk of this. This can also develop gradually over time and they are also more likely to suffer from PND.
Symptoms include, feeling frequently nervous, anxious or worried.
Having difficulty in bonding with your baby, feeling restless and/or irritable, constantly checking on your baby and thinking bad things will happen.
Physical symptoms can include rapid breathing, dizziness, muscle tension or pain. Maternal OCD
Research shows that obsessive compulsive disorder is more common during or after pregnancy as mums are focused on the safety of their baby.
Symptoms of this can include, fear of contamination, doubts about baby equipment; such as thinking the baby steriliser is not working, perfectionism and excessive cleaning.
Sarah stressed that if you don’t feel like yourself, and have any concerns about your metal health or are displaying any of the above illnesses and symptoms for longer than two weeks, please reach out and talk to someone such as a midwife, public health nurse, counsellor or doctor.
“There is no shame in doing so and it not a sign of weakness.
“There is effective treatment available such as counselling or medication
“Suffering from a mental health illness can be lonely, scary and difficult.
“But with the right help and support, women can and do recover,” concluded the local therapist. You can find Sarah at www.facebook.com/NewBeginningsCounsellingService/