Essential tips for managing your mental health as a new mother

Maternal mental health 2
Expecting and New Parents

Essential tips for managing your mental health as a new mother

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The arrival of a new baby is generally portrayed as a time of joy and excitement. And usually it is. However, for some new mothers, the postpartum period can also bring about a complex mix of emotions, including anxiety, depression, and stress, as they adjust to the demands of motherhood.

In fact, 85% of new mothers experience some type of mood disturbance during the postpartum period. Managing mental health during this time is important for both the wellbeing of the mother and the baby.

Here are practical tips for postpartum women to help maintain and manage their mental health and mood, as they care for their new baby.

Recognise normal emotional fluctuations

It’s common to experience a wide range of emotions after childbirth. Recognising that these fluctuations are normal can help you to cope with feelings of sadness, anxiety, or irritability, commonly known as the ‘baby blues.’ Baby blues are so common that it’s considered a normal part of the postpartum experience and is usually resolved within two weeks of childbirth.

However, if these feelings intensify or do not fade after a couple of weeks, it may indicate something more serious like postpartum depression. If you feel your mood and mental health is seriously affected, you should reach out to your GP for help.

Establish a support system

Having a strong support system can be a lifeline during the postpartum period. A strong support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals, can provide emotional and practical help for you, helping to reduce feelings of isolation and overwhelm. This support could include helping with household tasks, offering childcare, or simply providing a listening ear. Such support is very helpful in preventing postpartum depression and anxiety, ensuring that new mothers don’t feel alone during this period.

Prioritise rest and sleep

Sleep deprivation can significantly affect mental health, making it crucial for postpartum mothers to prioritise rest. Whilst it’s challenging with a newborn, taking short naps while your baby sleeps is really important for both of you. If you do have a partner, family or friends on hand to help out to watch the baby whilst you rest, take up the offer and get your sleep wherever possible.

Practice self-care

Self-care is not just beneficial; it’s essential. Simple activities like taking a warm bath, reading, or practicing meditation can provide significant mental relief. Exercise can also play a crucial role in improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression, so gentle physical activities like walking or postpartum yoga can be highly beneficial for you and your wellbeing. Find what works for you and try to make the time that fits in with you and baby’s schedule.

Maintain a healthy diet

Proper nutrition helps you as a new mother recover from childbirth, supporting your physical health and emotional wellbeing. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins aids in healing, boosts energy levels, and supports lactation for breastfeeding mothers. Essential nutrients like iron and calcium are particularly important to replenish after pregnancy and omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, are particularly beneficial for mood regulation. Nutrition impacts energy levels and mood, so make sure you’re getting enough of the right foods and supplements.

Set realistic goals

Setting achievable goals for your day can prevent feelings of inadequacy and overwhelm. Try to break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate small victories – whether it’s finishing a new book or getting some work done. This approach can help maintain a sense of accomplishment and control.

Limit social media

While social media can be a source of support, it can also create pressures and unrealistic expectations about motherhood. Limiting time on social media can help focus more on yourself and your own personal wellbeing, rather than comparing yourself to others. Put a cap on your phone for how long you can spend on Instagram and other apps, to remind you to switch off periodically.

Keep a journal

Writing down thoughts and feelings can be a therapeutic activity for many new mothers. Keeping a journal allows you to express emotions constructively and can serve as a tool for reflection and processing feelings. It’s also a nice activity to wind down at the end of the day and can help you relax and decompress.

Seek professional help

If emotional difficulties persist, seeking professional help is crucial. Therapists and counsellors specialising in postpartum mental health can offer effective strategies and treatments, including therapy and medication if needed. Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can also help you to look after your wellbeing and identify whether you need any further support.

Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and taking steps to care for your mental health and wellbeing is beneficial for you, and the entire family.