Postnatal mental health and emotions

Liora Noy

Educator/Relationship Manager for PADA

Becoming a parent is a pivotal time in our lives, full of new experiences and feelings. But having a little human being dependent on you 24 hours a day can be a huge change.

You might be on an emotional roller coaster in the first few weeks and months, alternating between joy, exhilaration, anxiety and even some panic. It’s common, and very normal, to be teary, sad, ambivalent, anxious and lonely, and to feel isolated and overwhelmed in the first four to six weeks.

Not every mum or dad falls in love immediately with their new baby. It might take some time, and that’s OK. The sheer physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation certainly doesn’t help.

Looking after yourself

It is very important to take care of yourself as much as you can in these first challenging weeks.

Accept all offers of help, and don’t hesitate to ask for help – someone to hold your baby while you sleep, someone to bring you food, or just sit with you if you are feeling lonely and isolated.

Prioritise sleep – it’s much more important than doing the dishes or doing housework. Try to sleep whenever baby is sleeping, day or night. Consider safe contact napping if your baby is one of those many babies who won’t nap alone in their cot in the first three to four months.

Eat regular meals and snacks, with lots of protein and carbs; take your water bottle wherever you go.

Go out every day, even from the first few days; there’s nothing like a walk outside to make you feel better. Go for short walks, listening to your body if your birth was a more complex one.

Be in touch with other parents from your antenatal group as much as you can, to get support and normalise all that is happening to you.

Build a routine where you have one activity a day that takes you out of the house to see other adults.

If you feel you had a traumatic birth, debrief with your LMC (lead maternity carer). Journalling and writing about your birth can often help too.

If you are experiencing challenges with breastfeeding and you do want to breastfeed, seek support from a lactation service or consultant as soon as possible. Breastfeeding should not be painful and there are ways to increase supply if you receive support early enough.

Signs you might need mental health support

If you’re still not feeling like yourself after the first six weeks, and have any of the following symptoms, it might be time to consider getting mental health support:

  • anxiety that keeps you awake at night even once baby is sleeping for longer periods
  • dreading being alone with your baby when your partner is back at work; feeling you can’t cope alone
  • crying a lot and feeling very sad
  • unable to eat, or eating too much
  • unable to enjoy or laugh at anything or very often
  • feeling like you’re not connecting or bonding with your baby, or feeling numb
  • feeling very guilty and full of shame about not feeling as happy or functioning as well as you thought you would
  • having scary thoughts of self-harm or harm to your baby.

Talk to your GP or LMC; ask for a referral for counselling and support



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