With 10pc of new mums suffering mental health problems it’s time to realise happy mums means happy babies
- Credit: PA
Jackie Heffer Cooke, co-director of the Orange Grove Clinic and Baby Centre, talks the importance of wellness and support groups to new mums to get them away from the 'domesticity of new motherhood.'
Last Thursday I went to the BetterBirths conference at the Belfry Hotel in Cambridge.
Speakers were top of their fields: Baroness Julia Cumberlege, who devised the new maternity report; Dr Rupa Chilvers from the Royal College of Midwives; and Dr Alain Gregoire, a consultant perinatal psychiatrist, to name a few.
The afternoon centred on mental health in pregnancy and postnatal.
Dr Gregoire reported that 10pc of women suffer some kind of mental health problem in pregnancy, and postnataly.
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This figure is calculated on the percentage of women who actually seek help.
He also suggested that anxiety in pregnancy doubles the risk of the child itself having emotional problems later in life.
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He also proposed that if we don't deal with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues at this significant time in a woman's life, it could cost the NHS £8.1bn in GPs, psychiatry, and stress-related illnesses – not just in mum – but continuing down the line to the child themselves, and when that child becomes an adult and has children of their own, potentially that child too… and so it goes on.
In the classes I teach, I see around 120 pregnant and new mums a week.
I would suggest that it is more than 10pc of women who suffer some kind of depression after having a baby, even if it's just in the form of anxiety, and perhaps a feeling of being out of control, and a little 'lost'.
Naomi Farrow also spoke at the conference that afternoon. She is founder of local group 'Get me out of the 4 walls', a Facebook and 'real life' postnatal meeting group. She found her postnatal depression crippling, which led her to starting this brilliant group which now helps and supports hundreds of new mums – check it out, she's an inspiration.
As a new mum, I suffered from those good old mental health problems such as loneliness, busy overthinking mind, frustration, postnatal insomnia, feelings of 'getting it wrong', and at times even self-hate for not being a 'good enough mother'.
Personally, a 'mum and baby tea group' wasn't for me; what I needed was to go out more 'anonymously' where I didn't feel I was being judged while I was trying to navigate new mothering.
Eleven years ago there were no real baby classes.
So,when I began getting interested in yoga and discovered I could teach yoga to pregnant and new mums, it seemed like a brilliant way of supporting mums, like me, in their 'time of madness of new motherdom'.
Every week I receive an email about how these classes have helped my 'mums', sometimes in pregnancy, sometimes in birthing to be able to breathe through birth with more confidence.
But mostly, just getting women away from the 'domesticity of new motherhood', to get them into a community, with other women who understand, and to just know that we are 'all doing our best' and we are 'all good enough'; it's just we all do things differently, no right, no wrong.
It would be such a wonderful wish to be able to offer these classes not just to women who can afford it, but to the women who can't too.
It seems our medical health system, in whatever area, is so reactive, rather than proactive.
I understand entirely the most important thing is to staff our hospitals and make sure the medical risks of childbirth are kept as low as possible, but the mental health facts are there.
The more community classes, more sharing, more tools, and techniques we can use to help ourselves, mean a happier, healthier force of mothers bringing up happier and healthier children.
It would be so wonderful to find the money to make it happen now, to support our children's mental health in the future.