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Did you know that six weeks into motherhood, new mums should receive a mental health check? At the end of your six-week perinatal visit, your midwife should check on you as well as the baby. Well, there’s a high chance that you are a young mother who was hastily questioned in a fluster towards the end of a visitation or simply not asked at all.

But after announcements and effort put in by the government about paying more attention to this issue why is it still not working? If you are a new mum struggling emotionally and/or mentally how can you seek out the help that you need?

The announcement of mental health checks for new mums

According to NHS UK, 1 in 10 mums suffers from PND. This figure is likely higher following the pandemic too, but this issue was being addressed in the past.

In 2018, the NHS introduced a brilliantly progressive introduction to mental health checks for new mums. The idea being that 6-weeks after you have had your baby, your midwife should take time to check on your mental and emotional well-being.

This is a super important step forward in trying to tackle PND. The sooner that PND is diagnosed, the sooner it can be treated! If someone can pick up on signs of PND at 6 weeks, then support and help can be put in place quickly.

Support for partners too?

Man sitting on sofa looking low and suffering from their mental health

In December of 2018. NHS England announced that new and expectant fathers would also be offered medical health checks. Yup. Dads suffering from PND, you were noticed too!

With growing figures of 1 in 10 new or expectant dads to be having symptoms of anxiety and depression, this was yet another issue that needed addressing. And, with this, they were offering treatments such as peer support, behavioural couples therapy sessions and other family interventions.

2018 marked a period where mental health in new parents was being addressed. It appeared that the issue was being taken seriously, and with an aim to reduce the figures, things were looking a little brighter for those suffering with PND.

What’s happened to the mental health checks for new mums?

Unfortunately, mental health checks have taken a dip from how highly they were prioritised on the agenda. Warning: here comes the numbers bit!

A high percentage of new mothers (85% according to an NCT survey released April of 2021) say the focus on appointments has been mostly on their babies. (That’s up 45% from 2019!). 60% said their check has been rushed at the end of their visit. And, 25% of parents from this 2021 figure said that they were not being asked about their mental health at all. This lead to a lot of young parents feeling rejected, ignored, and placed on a back-burner, where they are potentially left!

We asked mums in our community about their experiences with the 6-week mental health check-in’s. Here are a few things they said:

‘My doctor refused to do any 6-wk check for me or my baby… I had to make appointments and ‘fight’ to be seen.’

‘Mine was cancelled at 8 weeks. They have said it will be 10 weeks.’

‘They didn’t care at all about me considering I had a difficult labour and were in hospital for a week.’

‘My little one is 1 on Sunday and I have no check up and have never seen or heard (from them)…’

‘I asked for one and was refused.’

These responses, heart-breaking they may be, are not difficult to get your head around following the pandemic. And, as a quick reminder, we cannot shift blame to our midwives right now. Over 2020 and 2021, all NHS staff has seen a colossal amount of strain and is doing their best. We have to keep that in mind when looking at this drastic incline. But, still, we can’t ignore the fact that there are mothers who have truly suffered during the pandemic.

What’s the response?

The issue has clearly become an intimidatingly big issue through the duration of Coronavirus. But, thankfully, it has not gone under the radar of the government and the NHS.

Following these results, the NHS responded by saying they would start opening “Mental health hubs” for new, expectant and bereaved mothers.

This is a long term plan, stating ‘ten sites will be up and running within months’ and ‘every area will have one by April 2024’. As well as offering ‘psychological therapies’ these hubs will provide appropriate training for maternity staff and midwives. This, in time, means parents going through a tough time will receive the mental health support they need.

So, that means we have good news in the long run! NHS has got a long term plan in place for trying to resolve this problem (We are being heard, thank you NHS!). But what about those currently suffering? We have a 3-year waiting period between here and 2024. New mums will still be suffering from their mental health. So, what should they do?

How do I ensure I get a mental health check as a new mum?

Two hands: one offering a little heart (a little bit of love) to the other.

If you are in a strong enough mindset, then it would seem that the answer is to just push. These checks are important and if you think you have it in you to fight for it, then armour up and hit the battle stations! Either contact your GP or tell your midwife that you need it to be made more of a priority. And if it doesn’t happen immediately, keep pushing! Want to take it further? Maybe it’s a good time to start a petition to get the issue raised in parliament.

But, not everyone always feels capable or able to push when in that grey-cloud headspace.

We can offer a few tips on how to manage anxiety in the moment if you are severely suffering. These are a good short-term relief if you feel at the end of your tether.

If you feel like you might know someone who understands what you’re going through, it’s a good idea to reach out to them! Whether they’re parents themselves or you know they potentially suffer from their mental health. It’s very likely they will make for a good shoulder to lean on.

However, if what you’re feeling is quite severe, we have some more information on support for PND here. There are some brilliant charities that you can call (PANDAS and MumsAid just to list a couple). They specialise in specifically helping parents suffering mentally. If you feel that you might be in danger, your best option will be to call 999 or call the Samaritans.

Regardless of how it may feel at times, there are people out there willing to listen. There are people who know how to help. Please, reach out to someone, because it can get better.

Stay safe.

When you find a mum friend it’s a game changer. Mum friends make the good days better and the tough days easier. Mum friends are brilliant. Here’s why!

  • And dad friends too! Dads – replace with ‘Dad friends’ as appropriate!

1. You share your birth story before even finding out key details

The need to talk about your birth story is real. When you meet a mum friend chances are you’ll both share your birth story – warts and all – before even finding out what their partner is called or what they do or used to do for a living!

2. They’re there when nobody else is

If you’re up in the wee small hours you can feel like the only one up. But – chances are your mum friend is up too. They’re also there in the daytime when all your other friends are at work. And they’re there when you text or message to make you feel less alone.

3. They make the boring bits of parenting more bearable

Soft play, parks, walks…they’re all better if you have your mum friend with you! Even if you never get the chance to finish a conversation because you’re constantly interrupted by your kids! The day to day of parenting is more fun when you’ve got a mum friend by your side.

4. Mum friends never judge

They see you at your best but also at your worst. On those days when you’re exhausted and can barely cope. On those days when it’s all too much and you cry. On those days when you feel like the worst mother ever. But they never judge you. They give you tea and cake and hold your baby. And – if you need them to -they’ll hold you too. And make everything that little bit better

why mum friends are so brilliant

5. They’ll cheer you on when you need it most

If you’re down they’ll pick you up. If you’re struggling they’ll go out of their way to make each day a little easier. And they’ll always make you feel like a better parent even when you’re doubting yourself.

6. You can have the most honest (no holds barred) chats

You begin your friendship sharing intimate details about birth and – as you go on – you open up and share the vulnerable sides of you. Knowing your mum friend will listen and get it. From laughing together about the things that drive you mad. To opening up and crying about the harder bits that make you sad.

7. Mum friends stick by you even when you’re grumpy or tired

Because they get it! And they know there will be plenty of days when they’re a bit snappy and worn out too.

If you’re shy or feel a bit awkward in groups it can take a little time to find your tribe and make mum friends. We’ve put together some top tips to make going to a baby or toddler group less daunting.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We think it takes a village to raise a mother too!

Do you run classes for mums-to-be, new parents or parents and babies? Or are you a parent that would love your provider to help support your mental wellness?

If so – this is the perfect opportunity for you. Enhance your classes by putting their mental wellbeing at the heart of what you do.

Pregnancy, birth and new parenthood are transitional times in our lives. While wonderful, they can bring with them feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability. Right now, after a year in the grip of a pandemic – the need to support parental mental wellbeing is greater than ever before.

This is why we are excited to tell you about Beyond Birth – a training opportunity for providers to help support parents’ mental wellbeing.

Easy and enjoyable online training

Beyond Birth offer online Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Certified Training that is both enjoyable and easy. The training will teach you how to Prevent, Protect and Preserve Parental mental health. You will be able to show parents how to bring in simple, effective wellbeing practices into daily life.

The course will teach you how to incorporate practices like mindfulness, relaxation, journalling and affirmations into the work you already do. To make the parents in your class, their babies and children and you feel better.

Why supporting parental mental wellbeing is so important

Beyond Birth Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training will allow you to enhance what you offer already in your classes. It will allow you to connect on a deeper level with parents. It will also enhance the bonds between parents in your group whilst managing and maintaining their mental wellbeing and subsequently their babies.

Of course, the more you learn about simple practices to increase mental well being the more you learn to adapt them in your own life too. Simple practices can add up to big changes in the mental wellbeing of the parents and children in your classes – and in you too!

When you register your interest you will be invited to a Free Workshop on why it’s vital to bring mental wellbeing into your practice and how to do this simply, and effectively.

Small online wellbeing training workshops that fit into your life

Beyond Birth keep their workshops small so that you will really feel part of a group and can get the most out of Sophie’s expertise. You can train over a weekend or train in instalments – whatever fits in best for you.

Sign up for the FREE Perinatal Mental Health Workshop & Beyond Birth Training Waitlist here.

About Beyond Birth and Sophie, the Mamma Coach

Sophie Burch - the Mamma Coach, maternal mental health

Beyond Birth is run by Sophie Burch, aka the Mamma Coach, who has over 14 years experience working in the birth and baby world. She set up Beyond Birth to bring her wealth of experience to parents and practitioners. She says:

“I’m on a mission to help as many people as I can to have a more balanced experience of birth, parenting and transitional times in life”

Sophie is a mother of 4 boys. She has over 11 years experience as a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, IAIM Baby Massage Teacher, IFA Aromatherapist, Holistic and Pregnancy Massage therapist, Usui Reiki therapist and ex-professional singer. All rolled into one: she’s The Mamma Coach! (Fully accredited by the CNHC, General Hypnotherapy Register, GHRsc and fully insured).

Raring to go! Sign up now

The next live training is now 18/19 September 2021. Can’t wait until then? You can start now with self paced online training and can start running groups as soon as you want to.

Sign up for the FREE Perinatal Mental Health Workshop & Beyond Birth Training Waitlist here.

Disclaimer: Beyond Birth pays a small fee for providers who go on to do the full training.

19/01/2018 by Emily Tredget

Last week I asked the lovely mamas in my Facebook group “What do you wish more people understood about PND?” I was surprised at how many responses I got, and wanted to share them. From mums who want to help bust the myths of postnatal depression and to end the stigma.

Why it’s so important for mums to speak out to bust PND myths

I want to share what mums had to say so that any other new mums struggling out there can take strength and courage from their words. So that any family or friend supporting someone with PND can understand them more fully. Because both the sufferer, and those caring around them need to understand what PND is. Without the sufferer realising what they are fighting they often won’t get help. And without those around them understanding as best they can, the sufferer may feel judged or uncared for.

Below are the responses I received. Some are quite similar, but I wanted to share different mums’ ways of putting it with the hope that it would resonate with many mums struggling currently.

“What do you wish more people understood about PND to bust the myths?”

busting the myths of postnatal depressionHere are some of the myths about postnatal depression mums want people to know and the reality they want more to understand:

What PND looks and feels like:

 

 

 

 

  • It presents itself differently in people, and you can experience it more than once.
  • I wish that I understood I had it earlier.
  • I wish I knew I was not alone and that PND is so common
  • Just because it looks like you are coping and you keep telling everyone you are fine doesn’t mean you are.
  • For some of us its more about anxiety as opposed to feeling down.
  • Mine was stress and just feeling down rather than anything more sinister, but it’s still very isolating, especially when there seem to be no support groups you can just drop in to. That was all I needed really, plus practical help. Drugs and CBT were on offer but were completely not what I needed! And I wasn’t asked what I would’ve found helpful.
  • It’s not just feelings of sadness….it can be feelings of anger/sadness too. And present in many different symptoms. Oh and it’s not just straight after your baby is born, it can come on later.
  • It doesn’t only happen immediately after baby is born and sometimes can build up over a few months.
  • There is hope and recovery from PND but anti depressants shouldn’t be the first port of call for doctors. I know for me mine was caused by chronic insomnia not just sleepless nights with a new baby. I physically couldn’t sleep at any time even for 30 mins over a period of 18 weeks.

The myths surrounding PND that we need to bust:

  • That it’s an illness that isn’t your fault. And that needing meds isn’t a negative thing.
  • I wish more people understood the difference between ‘baby blues’ and PND and weren’t so quick to dismiss feelings of PND as ‘normal’.
  • That it’s an illness not a weakness.
  • That it’s a real illness and that we aren’t making it up because we are too tired.
  • That you can still appear to be functioning normally and looking after your baby well.
  • However under the surface things are not OK- and you are not making it up.
  • That getting more sleep is a quick fix – it goes deeper than that.
  • It’s OK to have PND. It’s not a disease, it’s not catching, and it’s OK, in fact more than OK to talk about it. Don’t be embarrassed, just talk. It really, really helps.

We have lots of support, advice and places to go to seek support in the PND section of our blog.

Pandas Foundation is a wonderful first port of call.