In those cases where you find out that you are pregnant and you are delighted and excited, there is a vast array of books and advice on the pregnancy and labour part. You can download an app to check how big the baby is at any given week, what vitamins to take, what not to eat and a plethora of information on labour options. You have regular midwife appointments to ask questions and to check that all is well. There is an app for checking how often the baby moves and you’re told to go to hospital to get checked if you aren’t sure everything is ok. You have a hospital bag packed and ready to go and you have your labour plan.
So what happens if things don’t go to plan? Maybe you hate your pregnancy but feel that you can’t talk to anyone about that. Maybe you feel that you should be excited and you don’t know how others will react to you if you aren't. Maybe you didn’t have the labour experience you wanted, but because it wasn’t traumatic, you don’t feel that you can complain about it. Maybe you had a traumatic labour but because both you and the baby are safe now, you feel that you have to focus on that and just brush off the trauma of the event itself. Maybe you don’t feel a bond with your baby but you don’t want anyone to take the baby away so you just hope that it will get better. Maybe you are depressed beyond the hormone crash that everyone experiences but you feel that you should be happy because you have a newborn baby.
There are so many more examples than those above as to how we think we should feel vs how we actually feel. So many women suffer in silence on the assumption that either things will get better or that they shouldn’t be feeling the way they are so they will simply push the unwanted thoughts away. Post natal depression is incredibly common and affects 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. Numbers are likely to be higher than this as this is reported figures and doesn’t include those who do not reach out for help. Depression in pregnancy is also incredibly common and affects 1 in every 10 women. So why aren’t we talking about it more and supporting parents more? If these figures were part of the information given out to expectant parents, maybe the normalisation of their feelings would help them to reach out earlier rather than later.
Although there is a growing amount of perinatal mental health support in the UK, I do wonder if there is still enough and if the societal pressures are addressed sufficiently for women to reach out if they are struggling. So often new parents find it hard to admit that they are struggling emotionally with the arrival of a new baby. Yet we can see from the statistics that it is likely that some form of peri natal depression will occur. If you are struggling, please reach out for help. You can contact your GP, you can speak to your midwife/health visitor or you can contact a counsellor to get support.
I have specialist perinatal mental health training and can offer support if you have any questions or concerns.