A huge 70% of new and expectant mums experience some sort of mental health problem during or after pregnancy, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by The Baby Show, revealed that UK mums are at breaking point and have insufficient support in coping with the changes that come with having a new baby.
The most common mental illness experienced by new mums was anxiety – suffered by more than a third (36%), the ‘baby blues’ (18%) and post-natal depression (12%).
Of the 1,000 new and expectant mums asked, 89% think the government needs to invest more money into helping new parents with their mental health and nearly a quarter (23%) said they needed to do it as a matter of urgency.
When it comes to help, new mums who are struggling are turning to family members, rather than professionals. 51% of those who answered said they had asked a relative for help, with the second option being their GP or midwife (30%).
‘Maintaining your mental health in pregnancy and beyond comes from knowledge of the condition and what you can do to prevent things spiralling,’ says Neev Spencer, TV and radio presenter.
‘In my own experience, I wasn’t educated enough in post-natal anxiety and therefore didn’t know I had the condition. I feel it’s vital to pass on knowledge and expertise to pregnant women so they can understand and better prepare themselves.
‘No one is exempt from some form of “baby blues” because every new mother will be affected by a hormonal imbalance of some kind. However, knowing the signs and the tips to help and reach out to people can be extremely helpful.’
Nearly two thirds (63%) of new mums said their self-esteem was impacted negatively when they became a parent, but encouragingly, one in 10 said they got more confident as they took on their new role.
‘These stats are alarming and reveal the desperate need for the government to invest money in mental health for new mothers,’ explains Dr. Sarah Vohra, a leading consultant psychiatrist.
‘Whilst I’m pleased and thankful there is so much more awareness of mental health issues than there was 20 years ago, we need to ensure we have resources to meet this demand.
‘If you are a new mum, perhaps a worried partner, and you are struggling pre-, peri- or post-pregnancy with negative thoughts, it is important to speak out to make sure you get the right support to get you through.’
Fear of the unknown seems to be the biggest worry for pregnant first-time mums (65%), followed by the fear of pain of actually giving birth (52%) and any medical complications that might arise (46%).
And when the baby has arrived, the research found that the biggest pressure facing new parents is money worries (31%), followed by feelings of loneliness and isolation (18%) and the fear of inadequacy and not being able to cope (12%).
‘It is really important that we start an open discussion about the challenges facing new parents so that there can be a certain level of readiness for those entering parenthood,’ says midwife Louise Broadbridge.
‘We are so quick to pull the party poppers following the announcement of a soon to arrive baby – as is it should be! However, becoming a parent is tough and doesn’t come with a manual or a map.
‘Talking about how couples can navigate their way through would vastly help to not only cope with all the emotional and physical changes but to recognise when the emotions being experienced have become a cause for concern.’