Tips to support your mental health after you’ve had a baby
Shout Clinician Sarah McCubbin shares some key tips and support for new parents around supporting your mental health in the perinatal period.
When we have a baby, many of us experience thoughts and feelings that are new, or that we have never felt before. These can be a mixture of ups and downs, often including chaos, anxiety, excitement, and fear.
Each experience is unique, and having had a child before doesn’t dictate how we will feel after subsequent children are born. Everyone expects to feel overjoyed when a new baby comes into their family, but the reality can be a rollercoaster of emotions.
During pregnancy and after the birth of a baby, it is completely normal for parents to feel overwhelmed at times. You may have heard of the ‘baby blues’, which can be common in the few days after your baby is born - you might feel anxious, upset, tearful, scared or low, or anywhere in between. These feelings usually pass after a few days. However, sustained worry or low mood after the birth of your baby (and up to 12 months after) could be a sign of postnatal anxiety or depression, which affects around one in 10 women.
According to a study on the mental health of dads in the perinatal period, one in 10 fathers also experience postnatal depression or anxiety, so if you feel this way you too are not alone. It’s important to know that help is available, if you are experiencing feelings that are impacting your everyday life, then do talk to your Health visitor or GP.
However, struggling with your mental health at times when you have a baby doesn’t necessarily mean you have postnatal depression or anxiety. But your mental wellbeing is important and there are things that you can do to give yourself the reset and support you deserve. Here are some great strategies, techniques and activities that you can try, to promote positive mental health
Get as much rest as possible.
It isn’t easy with a baby, but getting as much rest as possible can help you to stay calm, patient and be supportive to your baby and each other.
It may feel as though the sleep you get now is not the best quality, with babies waking frequently through the day and night, but try to remember that it won’t last forever.
If you have a support network, it can be helpful to ask someone you trust to sit with your baby while you and/or your partner rest nearby. That way you can hear the baby if needed, but also can rest assured that their needs are being met too.
Get your heart rate elevated with purpose.
Exercise might seem like a daunting prospect (and if you are considering working out then always get clearance from your GP or Health visitor at the six week postpartum check), but getting out in the fresh air, going for a walk, having a dance in the kitchen, or doing a workout (when you are physically ready) is proven to have positive effects on how we feel.
Making an effort to carve out time, with or without your baby, is great for recovery post birth (for mums) and a great space for partners too.
Increase your social support.
The less alone we feel in parenthood (and life) the easier things can seem.
Parenthood can feel like an isolating time; we are in our own bubble, getting through each sleepless night, and the next day can disappear. We all have unique birth experiences, parenting experiences and life experience, but knowing we aren’t alone can be a big step forwards.
Meeting other new parents, talking to others in a similar position, either online or in person can be super reassuring. There are many free classes run via the Health Visiting Service and local Children’s Centres, where you can meet new parents just like you. Other paid classes are available too, which you can learn about via your Health visitor.
Remember that you are still you.
You might have a new name after becoming a parent, but your values, interests and beliefs are often unchanged (even if priorities have shifted).
Try not to lose sight of the things that you enjoy, that make you feel fulfilled, or give you a sense of satisfaction. If you can carve out this time to still ‘be you’ then you’ll be able to offer more to those around you, without any resentment.
Seek help when you need it.
Help looks different to everyone, but the most important point that can be made here is that you know you can seek help if you need it or feel that you can’t cope.
So many parents feel that they look like a failure or will lose their baby if they admit to struggling with their mental health and wellbeing, but actually asking for help is a step that can make all the difference to you, your family and your baby.
Reaching out for support can feel daunting, but you deserve help to be there when you need it. You could try sharing your thoughts with those around you, maybe your partner, a friend, or perhaps a health visitor, or a GP. Talking can be the first step towards positive mental health and accessing any help that you may need. There is also useful information and support available at NHS Services and support for parents and Best Beginnings.
If you are experiencing any issues that are affecting your mental wellbeing, you can also text SHOUT to 85258 for more information and support.
Good luck on the journey ahead!