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Why you need to ask the next mother you see how she really is

Oct 23, 2019

Pregnancy and new parenthood is a time of huge transition and massive adjustments. No one comes out ‘the other side’ unchanged. The unusual thing is, is that people want this adjustment to be ‘quick’ and there’s a weird phenomenon of wanting to ‘bounce back’ and ‘get on with things’ much sooner than anyone is ready.

This goes for the new mother and also the people around her. Society as a whole generally celebrates women getting ‘out and about’ and recovering quickly. However, there is no ‘going back to normal’. The mother is forever changed.

Many postpartum professionals believe that the transformation a woman needs to make to become a mother is actually more intense than birthing her baby. There are so many changes happening; physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s important to understand the profoundness of it. From feeling vulnerable to loss of identity to loneliness to sheer exhaustion, parenting is hard, really hard.

 

We are seeing up to 85% of women feeling out of balance in those early days with up to a quarter of women experiencing postpartum depression. Mental health issues during early parenthood are very common and can effect anyone.

I believe these high rates of depression are resulting from a lack of support, underestimating just how intense postpartum actually is and trying to ‘do it all’.

Mothers are not meant to make this transition on their own. It’s really important to take time to rest, recuperate and heal so that you can properly care for your newborn and also replenish your reserves that were depleted during pregnancy. Try to resist the temptation to ‘do it all’ and instead learn to say yes to accepting help and support. With the right support, you and your baby can emerge feeling rejuvenated and peaceful instead of overwhelmed and exhausted.

 

A note to people seeing new parents…

  1. Ask what they need (perhaps you can pick up something on the way)
  2. Keep visits short during postpartum - encourage them to rest
  3. Help with household chores like washing up or doing the laundry
  4. Bring a meal or make a snack
  5. Ask ‘How are you?’ and ‘How can I be helpful?’ and wait for an honest answer

Here is a handy note that new parents can put up at their home for those early days with their newborn:

There is a mental health campaign that is shedding light on the fact that ‘it’s ok to not feel ok’. This is trying to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health issues and to encourage people to seek support when they are not feeling ok.

There are many great support networks available for people that are experiencing postpartum depression. The most widely used tool to screen for depression is the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale. This is something that can be done online or with a health care provider. If you suspect someone you know may be experiencing postnatal depression, please encourage them to seek help from a trained health care professional.

These are useful websites:
www.panda.org.au
www.beyondblue.org.au

If you know someone who has just had a baby, it’s a good idea to keep checking in regularly. You can ask simple questions like; how have you been feeling over the last two weeks? Do you have good support? Have you had any issues? How can I be helpful?

Many people find it very difficult to ask for support. This is why we need to change the paradigm around postpartum care and people need to learn to offer support to new parents.

This postpartum window is relatively small in the scheme of things but it’s crucial to really respect it. Let’s all work together to bring more reverence to the time after birth so we can help families have the most peaceful postpartum possible. Because, it really does take a village to raise a child!

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