The link between your mental and physical health. Becoming a mother
There is little research about the links between a positive birth experience and post natal depression/anxiety. Previously research examining psychological problems after birth has been largely quantitative and focused on depression in the post-natal period. (O'Hara MW, McCabe JE:Postpartum depression: current status and future directions/Mazure CM, Keita GP,Blehar MC:Summit on women and depression: proceedings and recommendations)
However relatively recently a qualitative study done by the BMC in 2014 (Rose Coates, Susan Ayers, Richard de Visser: BMC Pregancy and Childbirth and suggested in Ross LE,McClean LM:Anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the postpartum period: a systematic review 2006) suggested that both anxiety PTSD (following birth) and depression were relatively common post birth and that mothers face a unique set of circumstances such as fatigue, interrupted sleeping and the adoption of new routines such as breastfeeding.
To summarise some of the research showed that mothers could initially feel anonymous within the healthcare system but there was also positive praise for the healthcare system in almost all cases too with particular cases speaking highly of the support they received from their GP or health care providers.
Things mothers found difficult included;
The shock of the new: diving into motherhood
Adjustment to the unknown
Meeting new support needs
Needing and seeking support
Action to help move on
Parity, birth trauma and previous mental health
The study concluded that it was important to make sense of any distress by seeking the appropriate help (perhaps with a review from your medical team to discuss a traumatic birth or breastfeeding support). The study in my view more importantly recognised a desire to validate and normalise feelings through talking both in groups and on a one-to-one basis
Seeking a safe place for you to normalise those feelings is essential to your mental health and as your mental and physical health are closely linked, indeed your mental health.
In a world of social media it's often easy to compare to the chosen view of another parent - remember not everything in life is displayed on social media and it's a chosen view of what that individual wants to share
Seek out support groups, mother and baby groups, friendship groups, online groups (this is why ours is such an integral part of all our programmes. A space to be free of judgement and be open about your journey) and don't be afraid to share your feelings - lift the taboo of talking about how you feel - likelihood is that someone else may also be going through something similar and you being really honest might just give them the confidence to do so themselves
Your mental health affects your physical health - make sure you are giving yourself enough of a break to ensure your own cup is full enough to pour into anothers
You want to be giving others he best of yourself not what's left of yourself
For a list on where to find your nearest support contact your GP/Health visitor or local children's centre who all do a wonderful job of helping you to create that support network.
For those of you reading this with hindsight - what would you tell yourself or do differently next time around? What advice would you give to another mother?