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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Perinatal mental health: Looking after your mental health during and after pregnancy

The perinatal period is a time of challenge and change, physically, hormonally and emotionally.  

This can make it a catalyst for changes to our mental health.  We are adjusting to changes in our body and changes in our identity and relationships.  Subconscious fears and worries can make themselves known, and our existing coping mechanisms might feel less effective.  Looking after our body during pregnancy, and then our new baby once it has been born, can add a layer of pressure and anxiety.  I spoke to Metro all about the topic of perinatal mental health. Click here to read the full article, and read on to learn what I had to say.

Mental health problems can manifest in all sorts of different ways during the perinatal period.  We might find ourselves feeling frightened or worried, leading to bouts of anxiety.  This might be caused, or exacerbated by negative thoughts about ourself and our ability as a parent.  We might find ourselves feeling sad or low, leading to feelings of depression.  

This can all be made worse by the sense of what we ’should’ be doing or feeling. This might come from other people’s judgements, from what we see on social media, or even our own inner critic.  So if we find that we are feeling anxious or depressed or struggling in some way, we might feel as if we are inadequate or failing in some way, which can impact negatively on our self-esteem.  And this can impede us from voicing our feelings or reaching out for help, at a time when we might need it the most.  

It’s normal and natural to feel a whole range of feelings during the perinatal period.  Some of them might feel contradictory or embarrassing.  It can be a daunting time, when we are finding our feet within a changing body and changing relationships and changing roles.  

Just because we are experiencing big or difficult feelings, it doesn’t mean that we are a bad person, or that we will be a bad mother.  Sometimes anxiety and depression in the perinatal period is compounded by the pressure that we put ourselves under to be perfect and to please everyone around us.  

Tips for looking after your mental health during the perinatal period:

Try to figure out your toolbox of things that will help when times are tough.  This might involve a phone call to a trusted friend.  It might involve sitting down quietly with a cup of tea.  It might involve writing down everything that you’re feeling.  It might involve positive affirmations that you can say to yourself.  We all respond to different approaches.  

Remember that if you are struggling, you deserve some extra support.  If you are starting to notice that things aren’t feeling right, then it’s time to think about reaching out for support.  Think about what you might say to a friend in this situation, what advice would you offer?

If you’re still under the care of your perinatal mental health support team, then they are likely to be your first port of call.  If not, then contacting your GP or 111 can help you to understand the care pathway that is available to you.  

If you’re feeling uncomfortable or nervous about asking for help, then think about how you can make it feel a little more comfortable.  The MIND website has some great resources here 

You can also contact SHOUT or Samaritans for a supportive, listening ear.

There are also other organisations who do amazing work to support the mental health of parents, such as Home-Start.  They can match you up with a home-visiting volunteer who can offer support, advice, advocacy and a friendly listening ear when times are tough.  

The more we speak out, the more we destigmatise and normalise conversations around mental health.  This can help all of us to feel lighter, and to understand that we deserve support if times are difficult.  

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

Perinatal mental health

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