Today, the 4th May, is World Maternal Mental Health Day. The event is about raising awareness, about education and shaking off stigma around all maternal mental health issues.
The fact is that more than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the year after having their baby. This can include a number of conditions such as post natal depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. These can be short-lived, intense periods of illness or conditions which can affect individuals for many years. With so many women affected why are we often scared to talk about it?
From my own experience it can be hard to accept that at a time you expected to be magical and special you can feel desperation and despair. The image of motherhood most of us picture doesn’t always match up with the reality. I had expected a rush of love when he was born and to feel instantly connected to him, when that didn’t happen I was scared that there was something wrong with me and felt like a failure. It hadn’t crossed my mind that I might sit with my brand new baby in my arms and think “what have we done?”. I hadn’t expected to grieve for my old life and then feel incredible guilt at having those feelings. I hadn’t expected a birth so traumatic that I would have nightmares for months. I struggled in the beginning for a number of reasons and it was tough to accept and tough to admit. I was lucky, I had amazing support from my partner, my family and friends, health professionals and a group of mums online that I had never met but that would soon become very best friends.
This day is an opportunity to start a conversation, to share stories, to educate, to talk about what can sometimes be a very difficult reality. Most importantly it’s to reach out and give that virtual bit of handholding. It’s about signposting to where help is, not just for mums, for all parents and carers who are experiencing what can be the biggest challenge of their lives. It’s high time mental health issues were treated in the same way as any other health issue and that we weren’t afraid to raise a hand and ask for help.
You can join the conversation on twitter using the hashtags #maternalMHmatters and #askher and by following @MMHAlliance
Loads more information about maternal mental health issues and support available here.