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Maternal Mental Health

Updated: Nov 10, 2022

This month is maternal mental health month supporting mothers from prenatal, postnatal, through to motherhood.

According to the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (2022 report),

1 in 5 mothers can experience low mood and an increase in anxiety during pregnancy, or within a year of giving birth. During pregnancy there may be an element of excitement, but also worries of the unknown. In some cases, the worries or low mood can feel overwhelming and all-consuming, leaving you feeling distracted and struggling to concentrate. You might also find an increase in tension, sleep disturbance, panic, wanting to isolate yourself, or encounter social anxiety. As a parent you may experience overwhelming worries about your child, or your role as a parent.

Some common worries you might feel:

· Pressure to feel happy and excited about the pregnancy

· That you should be able to multitask effectively every day

· Worries that you are a bad parent, that you are not good enough

· Worries that your mental health can affect your baby or child

· Worry that your baby or child could be taken away from you, or what others might think if you admit how you are feeling, or the thoughts you are having.

What are the possible causes for developing a mental health problem?

· Previous experience of having a mental health problem

· Lack of a support network can increase the risk of developing a mental health problem.

· Stressful living conditions

· Your own difficult childhood experiences

· Life events such as unemployment, an illness or death in the family, domestic violence, moving home.

· Low self-esteem

What steps can I take to help myself?

· Self-care – look after yourself, small things like taking a shower and getting dressed even if you’re not going to leave the house can make a difference to how you feel. Keeping active can also boost your mood, even if it’s just a short walk or dancing to music in the kitchen.

· Keep a diary of your mood – this can help to keep track of what’s going on, and what has helped you feel better or worse.

· Be a friend – try to treat yourself as you would a friend. Listen out for your inner voice, your inner critic. How would you speak to a friend in the same situation, what tone of voice would you use, and is it different to how you speak to yourself?

· Expectations – keep your expectations realistic and achievable. If they are too high and unrealistic then it could feed the thoughts of ‘I’m not good enough’.

· Shift your focus – It might not feel like you have control over racing thoughts or worries but they are just thoughts, not fact. You do have the choice to either engage with those thoughts and feel overwhelmed and anxious, or move your attention elsewhere. Using a Mindful activity can be the first step to help calm your racing thoughts and worries. By focusing on what you can hear right now, what you can see, feel, smell or taste can ground you in the present moment. Have a go and see what happens to those racing thoughts.

· Breathe – learning and practising breathing techniques can help with the physical sensations of anxiety, and help you relax.

· Build your support network, ask for help and be open to accepting help.

How CBT can help?

· Working together we can help you increase your awareness of unhelpful thoughts, behaviours, or moods you are experiencing, and how they are impacting negatively on your life. This process then allows you to create more balanced and positive changes in your life. · The therapy itself is short-term, working towards goals for positive change. The techniques you learn will support you going forward in reducing the impact worries and low mood has on your life.

It is important to reach out and get support if you feel you need it.

· Talk to your doctor or health visitor as soon as possible.

· Contact me directly at Herts CBT on my home page or email for a free assessment.

Useful organisations:

Home Start: This organisation supports parents with children under the age of 5. They offer home visits, specialist group support, baby and toddler groups, help to access local services and much more. Visit their website to find your nearest branch

Best beginnings: Free NHS-accredited Baby Buddy app – with information and tools to help during pregnancy and early parenting. There is also access to confidential 24/7 ‘Crisis Messenger’ via the app for new or expectant parents who are feeling extremely anxious or overwhelmed.

Petals Charity: offers free counselling to anyone that has experienced baby loss. Website:

Twins Trust: a listening service for parents of twins, triplets, and more. Twinline is open Monday to Friday 10am to 1pm and from 7pm to 10pm. 0800 138 0509, email: Website:

Image: T. Garkusha iStock Images.

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