From your baby’s first smile and precious snuggles, to the sleepless nights, breastfeeding struggles and a constant fear of doing something wrong, it’s safe to say that becoming a mum can arouse a whole range of emotions – sometimes within the same day.
Because of this, it’s important for parents to take the time to check in on their emotional wellbeing. This could be as easy as scheduling in ‘me time’, reading a book or taking a walk. Starting this before the baby comes can make a big difference too. The main thing is to stay connected with how you are feeling.
Bupa GP, Dr Tim Ross says parents who are struggling to adjust to life with a new baby, or are experiencing feelings of sadness, doubt, sensitivity and moodiness, to the point where it affects their ability to function, may be experiencing symptoms common in postnatal depression.
Other symptoms of postnatal depression can include: feeling low and tearful, persistent feelings of worry, poor appetite, difficulty focusing, and a fear of being alone with the baby. And it doesn’t just affect women.
“Parenthood can be difficult for both sides of the coin, and some dads also find it hard to cope with all the changes and challenges that being a new parent brings,” says Dr Ross.
For mums and dads who are unsure of how to assess their emotional health, Dr Ross says, “Ask people around you how they think you are doing. Ask yourself how you are feeling, how you feel about the baby, and about being a parent. If any of these questions raise negative answers, it’s time to see someone”.
Another option is to download Bupa’s mobile tool, ‘mummatters’. mummatters encourages women, who are pregnant or recently had a baby, to check in with how they are feeling on a regular basis, and provides personalised tips and resources to help them look after their emotional wellbeing. Best of all, it’s been developed by specialists, and it’s free and 100% confidential.
Dr Ross points out “It can be hard to assess yourself, how you are responding to things and how you are looking after yourself, but this is where the signs lie. “If you think you may be experiencing postnatal depression, the first step to take is to talk to someone you trust like a friend or family member.” he said.
“The next is to see a health professional, such as your GP or your midwife. There are also support services such as PANDA that may be helpful,” he said.
Most importantly, Dr Ross wants parents to remember that life changes after having a baby; old habits need to adapt and he urges parents to be good to themselves.
“It’s OK for the house to be a bit messy. And it’s definitely OK to enjoy a longer shower when baby is asleep. Tape your favourite show and watch some of it when the baby is sleeping, or keep some treats to eat or drink when you get a quiet moment… Most importantly, relax and draw breath.”
Should you find that things are not going so well, it’s important to seek help - and the sooner the better. mummatters can also help you find the support you need.