A new mum herself, Chloe Hunt has been a practising midwife since 2014 after training at UWE Bristol. She currently works in an Acute Maternity Hospital in Bath which has a birth rate of around 6,500 births per year.
“My role as a midwife is never the same day to day and is full of the unexpected, it can be a very emotionally and physically demanding job but ultimately it really is the best most rewarding job in the world. I get to care for new mothers and families at such an intimate time in their lives and help to bring their new baby into the world. Even over 300 births later, each one is still just as special”.
In this week’s blog Chloe discusses maternal mental health...
Having a baby is a significant life event, and it's perfectly normal to experience a whole range of emotions during pregnancy and after birth; where there is great talk of the ‘baby blues’ which occur normally within the first days of giving birth. However, around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. This might be a new mental health problem or another episode of a pre-existing mental health problem you've experienced before.
Midwives play an essential role in promoting the emotional well-being of women; ensuring that all mental health needs are adequately identified as early as the initial booking appointment and will ask about any past or current mental health concerns and how you are feeling now. At each subsequent midwife appointment you’ll be asked about your emotional well-being and, if required referred to where you can get advice and extra help.
Maternal mental health problems can range from feelings of low mood, anxiety and depression to psychosis, it takes a lot of courage to take the first step and speak out if you are experiencing any of these mental health problems. Many people feel pregnancy and the birth of a new baby is a time to be full of joy and contentment – and feeling otherwise is a sign of failure and being unable to cope will result in their baby will be taken away. Please try to remember that a mental health problem isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s okay not to be okay. It is however unlikely that feelings stronger and more persistent than ‘baby blues’ are unlikely to just go away on their own and just like a physical health problem, mental health needs treatment too.
There are many different healthcare professionals who can talk with you about your mental health and support you in many different ways such as your midwife, GP or health visitor. Management of this is sometimes through the use of medication, cognitive behaviour therapy or counselling. More specialist services and charities such as community mental health teams, specific perinatal mental health services or hospitals and mother and baby units can provide more specific and one to one care to eliminate the pain behind the smile.
Remember – it’s okay not to be okay, that goes for new mums and new dads. It’s likely a lot of people will be able to empathise in some way with your experiences, in turn giving them courage to speak out or just take comfort in knowing they are not alone.