Maternal mental health - Questions we all need to be asking

Throughout my battle with Postnatal Depression and Postnatal psychosis I have dealt with a variety of emotions from the fiercest of anger and debilitating anxiety through to quite simply feeling nothing at all. As I’ve become stronger and re-found my inner strength, so I have found my inner voice and boy is it demanding some answers. The person who has lay dormant, silenced by crippling anxiety and self- doubt is now brushing herself down and bombarding me with a barrage of questions that until now I hadn’t realised I needed the answers to. Questions, I now realise, myself and fellow mums suffering with this awful illness need answering, if we are ever to recover fully.

Questions ranging from the ones we hate to admit to for fear of sounding whiney and pathetic; “Why me?” and “What did I do to deserve this?” Through to the ones that appear in your darkest of moments; “How am I going to overcome this?” and “Will it ever not be a part of my life?” However, it has only been now that I am starting to feel (dare I say and dare I hope) that it may be behind me that I’m asking “How did this happen to me?” and “Why was PND not even on my radar? Why was it not even a consideration?” This has inevitably lead me to the question of “How could I have been so ignorant of it?”

I think here in lies the crux of the problem when it comes to PND and the lack of awareness we have of it as a society, as mothers and mothers- to- be. The subject of maternal mental health is not on our radar. It is a subject we have only vaguely heard of in passing on a news report or touched upon briefly in a mother & baby book we have read. It is a subject we find too uncomfortable, too dark and too shameful to talk about. In our minds and culture becoming a mother is a subject that should only be a positive one. A topic only littered with talk of baby names, growing bellies and hopes and dreams of the future. It is a subject we shouldn’t be seen to “tarnish” with talk of anxiety, depression, self-harm and trauma.

As an expectant first time mum, my mind and heart was filled with nothing but love and excitement for the tiny person growing inside me and a joy filled anticipation for the amazing future we were going to have together. Was I wrong in thinking and feeling this? No. However, with the beauty of hindsight I can see that I was not best armed for the reality of motherhood and all it had in store for me. Yes, I had a beautiful, healthy baby who I loved with every part of me, however, I was also “gifted” with 18 months of Postnatal Depression which I was not just under prepared for but knocked sideways by due to my lack of knowledge of it.

The fear and misconception surrounding the area of PND and mental health issues in motherhood is leaving thousands of mums like myself not only unarmed and underprepared but thanks to a lack of knowledge we are also left feeling alone and isolated. We are terrified about what is happening to us, we don’t understand why we are feeling the way we are and we are unaware of where to go for the right help and support. Unless this changes how can we as women be fully prepared for motherhood? How can we as mums help ourselves and each other if we happen to be the one woman in ten diagnosed with a mental health issue following the birth of our babies if we have no knowledge of these issues in the first place? How can we recognise these issues in ourselves and others if we don’t know how they manifest? And most importantly how can we arm ourselves against maternal mental health issues and empower ourselves to ask for help if we can’t talk about them with our family, friends and health professionals due to the stigma associated with them?

The answer is we can’t and what a truly terrifying acknowledgement this is. What a shocking thought that with hundreds of thousands of women giving birth in the UK every year , how many of these women will be entering into motherhood with no knowledge of maternal mental health issues, but will, unfortunately, be one of the one in ten diagnosed with one? How are these women firstly expected to recognise they may have a problem and know where to turn to for help and support if they are unarmed with the knowledge in the first place?

So who is responsible for putting PND and maternal mental health issues on our agenda? Following recent reports in the media regarding the lack of government funding when it comes to the issue of mental health issues in motherhood, I am a huge believer that more money needs to be spent and more resources need to be allocated to provide all mums with the support and care they need when they enter into motherhood for the first or a repeat time. However, I am also an advocate of “If you want a job doing properly then do it yourself.” Therefore, I am going to be bold and stick my head above the parapet and say that the people who should also be responsible for making all mums and mums to be aware of PND and motherhood mental wellbeing is in fact US. US mums who have suffered and overcome a mental health issue, US mums who are currently suffering, US mums who have a friend or family member who has been a victim of it. US mums who up until reading this article were not aware of what PND stood for or the high statistics of developing a mental health problem in motherhood. All of US need to start talking openly on the subject of mental health amongst mums. All of US need to be brave enough to talk openly and honestly about our own experiences of it. All of US need to embrace the subject of mental health rather than sweep it under the proverbial rug. All of US need to arm ourselves and others with the knowledge of PND , how to recognise and overcome it. As with every conversation we have about it, every article we write, every piece of information we read, every friend we support through it and every question we ask about it, we are one step closer to abolishing the stigma attached to it and ensuring the armour we all need to survive the battle that is motherhood does not have a chink of the mental wellbeing variety.

We need to change our mind set and reprogram our view of motherhood. Yes, becoming a mother is a true gift and our tiny humans are truly amazing. However, our view of motherhood, our expectations and portrayals of it need to be better balanced and give a truer reflection of its realities without judgement. We as women need to feel empowered to talk about our experiences of motherhood, the magical and the challenging, with both the ups and the downs of our journeys being given equal floor space and column inches.

As a mother of two daughters who will hopefully one day be lucky enough to go on to be mothers themselves, I feel it is my duty to bang the awareness drum of PND and maternal mental health as loud and as clear as possible. My promise to myself, my daughters and fellow mums is to keep banging this drum until it penetrates the consciousness of society and Mothers worldwide.

Who else fancies joining me in making some noise?

I need your help and the help of Every Mum out there to spread the message that Every Mum Deserves the Right to Enjoy Motherhood? Therefore, I would LOVE you to come and join The Enjoy Mum Movement here and show your support by following the movement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Love Liv xx

(Founder of The Every Mum Movement)

10 Responses

  1. Annabel says:

    I do!!!!

  2. Naomi beckwith says:

    I’m a professional who fell pregnant at 26 and like you, I had the stereotypical ideology that motherhood would run like clockwork.
    Like you, I also became poorly with what I can now identify with as PND and psychosis, but who also had no clue and felt extreamly isolated and crippled by anxiety and feelings of self worthlessness.
    My son is now three and I am fortunate enough to have battled through the worst of it, however the memories still slap you in the face with shame and guilt at times.
    Reading this was a breath of fresh air and I’d love to be a part of raising awareness and supporting others, which I have already started to take the time to do, with new mums I work with.
    We need to share that it’s ok to talk about our thoughts and feelings and reassure people that this is a struggle no one chooses, but which can be overcome.

    • Olivia Siegl says:

      Hi Naomi, Great to hear from you and thank you so much for sharing your story. Its unbelievable the stuff we can get through and like you, even though I now feel 100% well, there are those moments and memories that still creep back in at times and have the ability to take me straight back there. I would love to hear more about the work you do and the potential ways we could work together, therefore, if this is of interest please drop me a note to [email protected]. Thanks again for your message and look forward to hearing from you! xx

  3. Sarah says:

    Thank you! I too bang the awareness drum of maternal mental health. I was so under prepared for what affect the arrival of our 2nd child would have on our family unit and life in general. The guilt and anxiety I suffered left me feeling crippled, I was fearful of leaving the house because I was positive something would happen to my baby whom I loved so much it hurt but who at one point I’m almost certain I regretted having. This child was a much longed for baby and I think I found it harder to accept my mental state because my pregnancy was so well planned, thought out and timed. We thought we had managed the perfect age gap (for us) turns out you can’t plan for everything and I certainly hadn’t planned on the anxiety I would have to deal with. It’s almost funny (but not really) since I have started to be more honest with those in my life about how I’ve been feeling and what I’ve been dealing with those same people have opened up and expressed issues they too have faced! So where I thought I may be judged I was congratulated on giving others the courage to be honest as well.

    • Olivia Siegl says:

      Hi Sarah, Thank you so much for getting in touch and sharing your story! It really resonates with me as I was also so fearful of leaving the house with my first little girl as was convinced something terrible was going to happen to her. And you’re so right its incredible how many other mums out there are suffering and open up about their own experiences once you start talking about your own. Its so important to keep talking and celebrating each others determination and down right courage to fight these battles and I applaud you my lovely for opening up and speaking to others about your own experiences! Please keep in touch and let me know how you are getting on and thank you for supporting the movement! love Liv xx (Founder of The Every Mum Movement) xx

  4. Helen Payne says:

    Id like to join you. Im a U.K citizen but I now live in Houston Texas with my husband and 3 year old. I had perinatal OCD and intrusive thoughts then PND after birth for 2 years. I think what youre doing is long overdue. Thank you.

    • Olivia Siegl says:

      Hi Helen, Its really great to hear from you and a big hello to you over in Texas! The movement is a global movement with the aim to reach out to Every Mum Everywhere, therefore, would love you to join the movement and help spread the word in your corner of the world! I’m shortly going to be setting up local Every Mum Facebook Groups and will be doing one for the States and will be looking for mums to be admins of the groups to help spread the message of the movement in their local area, therefore, let me know if this something you would like to be involved in. How are you at the moment? I hope you’re doing ok! Please keep in touch and let me know how you’re getting on and if you would like to be involved in spreading the message that “Every Mum deserves the Right to Enjoy Motherhood” in Texas xx

  5. Laura says:

    Great post thank you. I’m (hopefully) just coming out the other side of PND slowly but surely and it’s so hard because I really want to raise awareness but also without scaring my pregnant friends!! They are terrified enough! I think that’s why so many people don’t talk about it along with all the birthing injuries people suffer (I was “blessed” with that too!!) it’s so hard!!

  6. Olivia Siegl says:

    Hi Laura, Thanks so much for taking the time to read the article and send me a message! I’m glad to hear you’re coming out of the other side, it takes time and a lot of bravery to recover so I am sending you massive hugs of support! One of the aims of the movement is to take away the “fear” and get Every Mum talking about their maternal mental health as easily and as normally as they do their physical! Please keep in touch and let me know ho you’re getting on!
    Love Liv xx (Founder of The Every Mum Movement) xx

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