LivingMental Health

The Importance of Mental Health in New Mothers

By Dr Sonal Kumta, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Fortis Hospital Mulund

Pregnancy promises to be a unique and memorable journey in any woman’s life. However, during this period, a woman can experience several emotions from happiness, sadness, anxiety, and excitement. These emotions can overwhelm any woman, especially if they are vulnerable and unable to find the support they need in their immediate family. Although these feelings tend to go away on their own for many women, for some, they might become severe and require medical attention. Depression and anxiety are medical conditions that can sometimes even start during pregnancy. These feelings are not caused by any external or internal factors, so a new mother/pregnant woman should never feel guilty about experiencing these varied emotions. They must also remember that help is only an ask away, and if they seek the required expertise, they can emerge from it stronger and tougher than before.  

Constant struggles with mental health can make it difficult for any new mother to tend to their own as well as their child’s needs. Besides the pain and trauma associated with childbirth, new mothers also must deal with challenges related to new responsibilities and expectations from their immediate and extended families. Further, new mothers’ bodies go through intense hormonal changes, which make it difficult to keep emotions in check, which is why they need to be given sufficient time to adjust, recover, and recuperate. Add to this if the new-born baby has any problem at birth or needs to be shifted to the ICU for better care, it is an additional cause of stress and anxiety for the mother. 

The pandemic further complicated the anxiety and stress women go through during pregnancy and childbirth. It created a vicious circle, where many women had to go for check-ups and ultrasounds without the support of their partners and families due to COVID related protocol. However, it is critical to understand that with time everything falls into place and by asking for help, women can truly make motherhood and pregnancy a memorable period in their life.

Below are a few ways in which families and caregivers can help make the pregnancy journey in a woman’s life a little less stressful and a whole lot happier.

Support from immediate families: Although we live in nuclear families, it is essential to have a team that includes parents, in-laws and siblings who can rally around the new mother to encourage them in the pregnancy journey. It is critical to work as a team so that it becomes easier to tide over the difficult moments and provide the new mother with the resources and strength, she needs to tackle any issue. 

Every pregnancy and post delivery period will have its ups and downs. Whether it is  irregular sleep patterns or ailments like fever and cough in babies or mothers experiencing bleeding after delivering, vaginal discharges and pain, with constant support and care from the immediate families, recovery will be a smooth process if everyone works and supports each other like a close-knit team.

It is a good idea to communicate and split responsibilities between the couple before the birth so that new mothers also get time to relax and sleep. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for help from extended family and friends, as everyone knows it takes a village to raise a child. 

Have a good diet and stay active: A good diet is essential for a new mother as she needs to recover the strength and stamina that she would have lost at childbirth. Make sure the meals cooked are fresh, well-balanced, and nutritious. Also, since the baby is completely dependent on breast milk, the mother must have a healthy diet.

Further, while we understand that taking care of a new-born baby is a 24/7 task, it is crucial to take a break for at least 20-30 minutes every day so the mother can focus on her own health and well-being. During this time, the mother should focus on simple exercises and do things that she loves, like reading, mediation or listening to calming music. Stress-free alone time can go a long way in helping a new mother heal and, at the same time, reduce her stress and anxiety. 

Speak to an expert: Today, people are more aware of mental health issues, including postpartum depression, than a decade ago. So, if you face any problems related to mental health, you must seek help from your immediate family and medical experts if required. Some common signs of mental illness can include a lack of bonding with the baby, sudden outbursts of emotions, lack of hunger/sleep and fatigue. If you feel that you are unhappy for long durations and without any specific reason, seek medical attention as it will help you cope in a more healthily and effective manner.

Also, if you have a new mother in your family, make sure they are well looked after both emotionally and physically. More importantly, if you notice any signs and symptoms of them being depressed or anxious, make sure you speak to them or a doctor if required. 

In conclusion, if you are a new mother and struggling with your emotions, figure out what you need, seek support, and find strategies that will empower your emotional and physical well-being. And never forget that you are a survivor and are capable of overcoming every challenge that this journey might entail.

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