You're allowed to grieve the motherhood you imagined
A week ago I was privileged to be featured on Linda Mtoba's Instagram live, where we had a discussion on Mother's mental health. I was excited by the response of this and thought that it would be fitting to write a blog post for those that could not engage in the session, but also for those mom's far and wide that may be struggling to come to terms with the fact that motherhood might be a lot different from what you imagined.
Motherhood is beautiful and gratifying, it is also difficult and exhausting, and it is okay to accept that both these realities exist! From the conception, to pregnancy and birth, your body, mind and spirit go through so many changes and this can all have and effect on your mental health.
Some of the issues new mom's can experience are baby blues, post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis and post-partum anxiety
What is Baby blues, Post-partum Depression and Post-partum Psychosis?
Baby blues are short term dips in mood caused by all the changes that come with the new baby, the feelings often begin 2-3 days after birth and last between 1-2 weeks.
If the these feelings last longer than 2 weeks you may have Post-partum Depression (PPD). PPD can occur within four weeks to several months after child birth, and can last up to a year. PPD symptoms are often more severe and include aggression, extreme stress and detachment from baby.
Post-partum psychosis is rare but extremely serious and requires urgent attention. Psychosis occurs when a person loses touch with reality, they may start to see/hear/think and believe things that are not true. Thoughts of harming baby and suicidal thoughts are some warning signs to seek urgent attention.
What is Post-partum anxiety?
Most mothers experience some worry, however post-partum anxiety is, near constant worry that cant be eased. Feeling absolute dread all the time and all of these symptoms affecting your ability to sleep, racing thoughts, as well as fatigue, heart palpitations, nausea, trembling.
What can I do, should I experience any of the above symptoms?
It can be easy to brush off these symptoms and think that you're okay, "this will pass", but its okay to admit that something is not quite right and "i need to seek help".
Many of us are afraid to look like failures, we feel as though we should be coping because everyone around us seems to be coping and we feel inadequate or guilty when we struggle. Everyone struggles with motherhood in some way, you're not alone, and reaching out and communicating your needs will help to bridge that gap.
I recommend doing this online self rating questionnaire, post natal depression scale.
If you have a score of 10 or greater then you should contact your doctor (GP, Gynecologist) as well as your Psychologist. They will work with you to figure out the best solution to assist you through this difficult time.
What can I do to take care of my mental health pre and post birth?
- Don't forget about YOU - before you became a mother you were somebody and that is important to remember
- Be realistic about your expectations
don't expect too much of yourself, set realistic and flexible goals
- Surround yourself with people that make you feel grounded, confident and good about yourself
- Try to keep physically active as much as possible, with guidance from your medical team
- Try not to make major changes during this time, like moving house, changing jobs etc
- Try to build connections with other expectant moms/new moms as another form of support
- Accept help, allow friends and family to take care of you and baby - it takes a village to raise a child
- Communicate with loved ones about your experience and struggles
- Journal about your experience
- Engage in therapy to help navigate through this experience
If you are having any of the above-mentioned symptoms or are feeling suicidal, please call SADAG (South African Depression and Anxiety Group) for 24 hour assistance (0800 456 789) , alternatively go to your nearest hospital emergency room.